Month of Horror Prevues: EATEN ALIVE
“Daddy’s off to the slay the dragon.”
Eaten Alive (1977) was Tobe Hooper’s rather mediocre follow up to his 1974 horror masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If you look closely at the storyline, it’s basically a retread of that movie with some slight variations added. Neville Brand plays Judd a rambling, psychotic hotel owner in rural Texas who doesn’t treat his patrons well at all. After they check-in, he usually goes batso and starts attacking them. He’s sort of like The Hitchhiker, Drayton and Leatherface rolled into one. Only his weapon of choice is a stylish scythe instead of a chainsaw. The seedy Starlight Hotel’s most interesting feature is the adjacent fenced in swamp where his ferocious pet crocodile resides. It’s the perfect set up for crazy ol’ Judd’s murderous tendencies. When he’s done his raging rampages he just throws the dead bodies to the croc, no fuss, no muss…and no evidence! This place is basically like The Sawyer House in that almost everyone who comes to visit never leaves.
The trailer proclaims the film as being in the tradition of JAWS, a prime example that shows after the 1975 Spielberg blockbuster was released it affected everything in the movie business. In fact it was so popular that a whole wave of B-movies were produced that did their own spin on the killer shark idea. From Piranha to Barracuda to Alligator and many more.
The great supporting cast includes Roberta Collins, a pre-Freddy Krueger Robert Englund, William Finley, Marilyn Burns (Sally from Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Mel Ferrer, Stuart Whitman and Morticia Addams herself: Carolyn Jones as a bordello owner. If you know star Neville Brand from his roles in classic 50s and 60s movies, he’s almost unrecognizable here with his shaggy hair, gruff voice and glasses.
Eaten Alive was shot almost entirely on one artificial looking set. The cinematography stands out since it has a EC comic book aesthetic and the use of red lighting is prominent in several scenes. Now, if you’re expecting a homerun horror classic you may be slightly dissapointed. It’s not as visceral or groundbreaking as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the least, but for genre fans it supplies a good mix of gory shocks and black comedy that should entertain you during your October Horror film watching.
Upon its release into drive-ins and grindhouses, as was the case with many classic exploitation films, Eaten Alive went by a number of colorful alternate titles to grab attention like Death Trap, Starlight Slaughter, Horror Hotel and Brutes and Savages.