Tobe Hooper’s career is one of the messiest of any Horror “Auteur” of the ’70s/80s. His debut film of any real note was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre; he made the previous hippy experimental mess Eggshells. Hooper made such a splash with such a masterpiece of horror cinema that even 40+ years after it’s release it has an undeniable power that few films have never mind horror films, it was also gonna be hard to follow it up. Eaten Alive is that film and what a complete failure it turned out to be.
Eaten Alive is very similar to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with its Texas-based story of a killer motel owner who also just happens to have a killer crocodile in the swamp next to the motel. It’s full of gratuitous tits and ass which was not atypical of horror cinema of then (or now for that matter) and the film opens with two nasty attempted rape scenes which leaves you a really bad taste in your mouth. The film runs pretty much 90 minutes on the dot and it a real chore to get through especially after the opening which is deeply unpleasant but lacks the sociopolitical subtext of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to give it any substance.
Hooper tried to make a surrealistic fairy tale with Eaten Alive but this intent is totally lost in the finished film, the imagery is never surreal enough. The film still has elements of the down and dirty aesthetic of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre but with the most minimal of heightened colours and production design to try but fails miserably to evoke this “surreal fairy tale” feel. The crocodile which makes the shark in Jaws seem like the most hyper realistic shark ever committed to celluloid. The cast is somewhat interesting part of the film Marilyn Burns who was also in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre reappears. Brian De Palma’s frequent cast member William Finley appears but is totally wasted by Hooper so he can’t bring his oft-kilter charisma to the role. The pre-Freddy Krueger Robert Englund appears as the really despicable hick called Buck, of course.
Fans of the film will be more than happy with Arrow’s Release. The transfer is better than the film deserves and the disc if stacked with extras. The disc includes an audio commentary by Hooper along with an hour of interviews with cast and crew. The disc also includes a 23 minute featurette on the real incidents which the film is extremely loosely based on not unlike the far superior in every way Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Horror | USA, 1977 | 18 | Arrow Video | 21st September 2015 (UK) | Dir.Tobe Hooper|Robert Englund, Neville Brand, William Finley, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones | Buy: [Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD]