UK Release Date: 21st September 2015
Runtime: 87 minutes
Director: Tobe Hooper
Writer: Kim Henkel, Alvin L Fast, Mohammed Rustam
Starring: Neville Brand, Marilyn Burns, Robert Englund, Crystin Sinclaire, Stuart Whitman, Mel Ferrer, Kyle Richards
Synopsis: A reclusive hotel owner embarks upon a spree of violence, with his pet alligator getting in on the act.
Tobe Hooper arrived on the horror scene in 1974 with a vicious, low budget punch in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Two years later, Hooper returned to the Deep South for another Texan shocker in the shape of Eaten Alive, released in the UK as Death Trap at the height of the hysteria over “video nasties”, leading to the deeply unusual film being savagely cut.
Eaten Alive is now available in its uncut form on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK, courtesy of the team at Arrow Films.
Rambling bundle of nerves Judd (Neville Brand) runs a secluded hotel in East Texas, with a pet alligator in an enclosure out front. In a strange combination of madness and necessity, he finds himself killing many of his punters and feeding them to the animal. One night, with Buck (Robert Englund) rutting wildly in one room, a tied-up woman (Marilyn Burns) in another and a terrified little girl (Kyle Richards) hiding in the building’s foundations, everything quickly comes to a head for Judd as Sheriff Martin (Stuart Whitman) arrives.
| “It does it all according to the instinct.”
It would be wrong to call Eaten Alive a great work of cinema. There’s something consistently naff about Hooper’s film, which radiates the odour of the bargain bin from every pore. However, there’s something endearing about the gleeful way in which it embraces its own silliness and exudes a sleazy, grindhouse charm in the midst of the same impressive visual invention that has made The Texas Chainsaw Massacre such an enduring classic. The gore work is unusually innovative for the time period and the alligator is realised well by the joyous practical effects.
The performances are impressively bizarre, with Neville Brand doing a great job as the near-incomprehensible, muttering killer at the film’s centre. He’s most entertaining when he’s in this mode, but switches into a bizarre, nonsensical cartoon character when he is asked to run around waving his scythe. It’s a bonkers performance, which shows both the best and the worst of grindhouse horror as a genre. There are few other important roles in the film, with Marilyn Burns reduced almost solely to her excellent scream and Robert Englund looking rather more fresh faced than he would a decade later as Freddy Krueger.
Perhaps the biggest strength of Eaten Alive actually arises as a result of its budgetary limitations. Shot almost entirely on a soundstage, the film has a close, claustrophobic feel that enhances its sense of off-kilter terror. There’s a genuine sense that the characters in peril are going to be unable to escape, particularly given that the setting traps the audience in place as well.
| “Name’s Buck… and I’m raring to fuck.”
It would be wrong to call Eaten Alive a must-see item in the horror canon, but for genre completists and fans of Tobe Hooper, this is a fascinating example of the director’s bizarre oeuvre. And if you’ve always wanted to see Freddy Krueger get munched down by an alligator in a grubby Texan pond, this is the only way you’re ever going to see it.
The Arrow features package is fairly exhaustive, including a new intro from Hooper and a surprisingly dry interview with the director. There are other star interviews, a Hooper-free commentary track and a bizarrely produced, but very interesting, doc about the true story that inspired the film.
Pop or Poop?
Sometimes, as a horror fan, you want to see a cerebral work that creates terror via psychological invention. But, every now and then, you just want to watch a madman running around with a blood-tinged scythe and feeding flesh to an animal.
Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive is grisly, gruesome and more than a little naff. However, that doesn’t stop it having a certain sleazy charm as a diverting, easy win to spend 90 minutes of time watching a simple horror film with lashings of inventive gore.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Eaten Alive is available on Blu-ray from today courtesy of Arrow Films.