Elite Entertainment presents
Eaten Alive (1976)
"Why don't you just take that cigarette and grind it out in my eye? Was that youreye? Oh...oh...honey I thought it was an ashtray!"- Roy (William Finley)
Stars: Neville Brand
Other Stars: Robert Englund, Marilyn Burns
Director: Tobe Hooper
MPAA Rating: R for (graphic violence)
Run Time: 01h:29m:00s
Release Date: 2000-02-01
DVD ReviewHave you ever had one of those vacations where you find yourself lost in a swamp somewhere? So, you decide to stop in at some out-of-the-way, crumbling motel run by a completely psychotic, backwoods hick, right? Then your dog gets eaten by his huge crocodile and he comes after you with a big scythe? No? Well, if that sounds like your dream getaway, then you better check out Eaten Alive. Eaten Alive is director Tobe Hooper's often forgotten tribute to giant crocs and insane hotel managers. When originally made, the film was doomed to failure when distributors did things like renaming it and re-editing it. As a result, the film is known by more than a dozen aliases and really never reached the devoted, cult-horror fans who would have appreciated it most. Hooper's most infamous work is the legendary Texas Chainsaw Massacre (and its sequel), which, by the way, is nowhere near as gory and violent as its reputation and name has hinted. Eaten Alive is thematically similar to Chainsaw Massacre, with outrageous and sleazy characters, but not quite as inspired.
The film stars famous character actor Neville Brand as Judd, the said deranged manager of the Starlight Motel. The motel is basically a giant, filthy shack that's set smack in the middle of a swamp. The plot is fairly simplistic: People show up at the motel, Judd mumbles insanely to himself, he hacks people with his scythe, and then he feeds them to his giant pet alligator..er...crocodile (Judd is very insistent it's a crocodile, NOT an alligator). Tobe Hooper's trademark strange lighting and set pieces create a very surreal, disturbing environment. Also setting the mood is Hooper's very own brand of chaotic, electronic music and noise. Characters are never quite normal, and some are plainly deranged. Judd might be the one doing the slaughtering, but he's not really too far off from the local folk. If any kind of sub-plot could be spotted, it would have to be Judd's continual attempts to kill a small girl hiding underneath the motel. Sound odd? It is.
Included in the mix is a surprising combination of actors including Carolyn Jones (a.k.a. "Morticia Addams," who pretty much ended her film career here), Mel Ferrer, Stuart Martin, and Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund, all of whom should be recognizable. The movie has also gotten a lot of mileage out of featuring Marilyn Burns, the heroine of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Unfortunately, Burns spends the majority of the film tied to a bed and gagged. The main attraction though, is the completely nonsensical performance of Neville Brand. I suppose if anyone were going to play a deranged, Bayou maniac who speaks incomprehensible drivel, he's the best for it.
Eaten Alive is completely ridiculous, but it's brilliantly ridiculous. It's one of the most outlandish horror films I've ever seen, and I've seen a few....The plot is twisted; most of the scenes are way more disturbing than was probably intended, and the gator effects are laugh-out-loud funny. Aside from a few minutes spent on constructing a very loose plot, the majority of the film is madness. We've come to expect this from Tobe Hooper, especially with the first two Chainsaw films under his belt, which were equally wild. As wonderfully strange as all this is though, this film is unfortunately a mere derivation of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1:85:1, Eaten Alive is properly widescreened and looks pretty good for its age. Despite source print problems (scratches, holes, etc.) the compression is very good. The heavy use of color doesn't bleed, and the film has very solid black level (with a few exceptions where the negative is screwed up). There are no compression artifacts or other digital problems, which is surprising given the weak quality of the negative. I think Elite probably was tasked enough even finding a remotely good copy of this obscure film , so overall it's an honorable job.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The film is Pro-Logic mono. The audio is serviceable, but isn't anything fantastic. Most of the soundtrack is overtaken by the loud, experimental music score by Tobe Hooper or the country music blasting from Judd's radio. Dialogue is clean and crisp for the most part, but the film is aged so not everything is digitally perfect.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: Unfortunately, no extras are presented, other than a trailer. I don't really know what could have been added, other than I would have liked to have heard a commentary track with Tobe Hooper. Some of his best films (Poltergeist, Lifeforce) are already out on DVD with no extras, so I hope he eventually gets to speak up about one of his films via a commentary track. Considering the cult nature of the movie, this is pretty disappointing. Also, the 10 chapter stops aren't really enough.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsEaten Alive deserves at least one viewing by any horror fan or Tobe Hooper fan. In fact, it would make a great party movie, since a lot of it is pretty humorous and can't be taken too seriously. It isn't a bad movie in the context of weird, low-budget films, but it certainly isn't particularly good. It's slow and doesn't have gore to sustain itself. It is a good glimpse though, into the formative years of director Tobe Hooper. I recommend checking it out for fun.
Dan Lopez 2000-08-04