Saturday, April 7, 2012

Eaten Alive (1977)

I have a vague memory of buying this movie one time at a dollar store and watching it.  I don't know what happened to that DVD, or why I never wrote a review of it, but now it's on Netflix Instant and I'll finally be able to give my opinion on it.  Tobe Hooper has a funny style that not everyone is on board with.  I liked Texas Chainsaw Massacre even though not everyone found it scary, and I love the nonsense campiness of The Funhouse.  As with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this flick is loosely based on an American serial killer -- in this case, Joe Ball aka "The Alligator Man," who killed several women in the 1930s and fed them to alligators.  

As was the trend in the 70s and 80s, well-known actors got top billing on these B movies, when they really only played smaller supporting roles.  Such is the case in Eaten Alive for Carolyn Jones and Mel Ferrer.  The main parts are played by Neville Brand (psycho motel owner Judd), Marilyn Burns (wife and mother Faye), and William Finley (husband and father Roy).  There are also appearances by Roberta Collins, Kyle Richards, Janus Blythe, and a very young Robert Englund.

Eaten Alive is about a strange man who owns a dilapidated hotel in backwoods Louisiana.  He has somewhat of a menagerie on the property, with the star attraction being his pet crocodile.  Clara (Roberta Collins) appears new to the hooker business, and after scaring off regular customer Buck (Robert Englund), her madam Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones) boots her out of the brothel.  She treks down the road to Judd's (Neville Brand) hotel, and after learning of her profession, he stabs here and feeds her to the crocodile.  Meanwhile, a family -- Fay, Roy, and little Angie (who later played little Lindsay Wallace in Halloween) arrive with their dog Snoopy.  The crocodile still needed a snack after his hooker meal and he chomps up the dog as well.  

Everyone is understandably shaken, but guests still arrive to the hotel.  Harvey Wood (Mel Ferrer) and his daughter Libby (Crystin Sinclaire) are looking for their daughter/sister Clara, who was obviously already eaten by the crocodile.  Judd mentions offhand that he's seen her at the brothel, and they take off to investigate.  Meanwhile, there's a battle at the hotel, as Judd sets out to capture the young family staying there.  A lot of running, screaming, scythe-swinging, and croc-chomping ensue.  

It's always hard to follow up the success of a popular flick like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, so Tobe Hooper obviously had an uphill battle from the start.  Eaten Alive isn't a terrible movie, and it has it's place in horror history.  It's certainly not as good as TCM, and Hooper was not able to achieve the general eeriness and vibe that we all loved so much about his first movie.  It drags at points, but I find that to be true of a lot of older movies, since my generation has become ADD about pretty much everything.  But a weird backwoods hotel owner and a hungry croc aren't the worst thing to ever happen to a horror movie and this one is definitely a B classic.  Also, it's it weird to think Robert Englund was kinda sexypants?  Maybe I've been watching too many movies this weekend, but he does has a couple sex scenes in this movie if that's your kinda thing.

"I'm Buck, and I'm here to fuck."


Dave Enkosky said...

I quite dig Eaten Alive. It's nowhere near the level of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it's got such a weird poor-man's-Lynchian vibe that I can't help but get sucked in.

Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

I saw this on Netflix and was kinda worried about giving it a watch in case it was too stupid. But now I'm all up for it, thanks girl!

Love the blog banner, btw!

The Scream Queen said...

@Dave: I agree, it's got a random creepiness that kind of draws you in. And you have to admit there's not too many movies about feeding people to gators!

@Michele: It's a fun time! Thanks re: the banner! It's definitely one of my favorite ones, and I've been reluctant to change it so far.