Eaten Alive (1976)
eaten alive | tobe hooper | alvin l. fast | mardi rustam | neville brand | mel ferrer | carolyn jones | animal attack | thriller | united states | marilyn burns | william finley | kyle richards | robert englund | janus blythe | stuart whitman | roberta collins
Film: Eaten Alive
Director: Tobe Hooper
Writer: Alvin L. Fast and Mardi Rustam
Starring: Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer and Carolyn Jones
This was a film that I heard about through podcasts I listen to. It was intrigued to learn that it was a Tobe Hooper film as well as having some horror actors/actresses that I’ve seen in elsewhere. I decided to give it a viewing as part of a horror movie challenge and it fit a couple categories for me. I have also now giving it a second viewing as part of Movie Club Challenge over on The Podcast Under the Stairs. The synopsis is a psychotic redneck, who owns a dilapidated hotel in rural East Texas, kills various people who upset him or his business. He feeds their bodies to a large crocodile that he keeps as a pet in the swamp beside his hotel.
We start in a room where we have Buck (Robert Englund) with a prostitute, Clara (Roberta Collins). He wants to do something new and she’s not comfortable with it. She freaks out until the Madame, Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones) comes in. To not upset the customer, she allows him to pick out to a couple of girls to make up for it. Clara is then let go, because she’s not cut out for this work. Ruby (Betty Cole), a housekeeper, tells her about a hotel up the road, but to not let him know she was one of Hattie’s girls.
The place is run down and there’s a swamp snuggled right up next to it. The proprietor is Judd (Neville Brand). He is quite odd, but does allow her to rent a room. As he is walking her up to it, he realizes she’s one of Hattie’s girls and attacks her. She ends up being eaten by the crocodile that roams the waters by the hotel.
Things take a turn though when Faye (Marilyn Burns), Roy (William Finley) and their daughter Angie (Kyle Richards) with her dog stop at the hotel. The couple is bickering, causing them to not pay attention when their dog is ate by the crocodile. They’re given a room to calm down, but we see that there’s something off about Roy as well. It gets even more complicated when Libby (Crystin Sinclaire) and Harvey Wood (Mel Ferrer) show up. They are the sister and father of Clara. Judd freaks out seeing the picture, but realizes they’re looking for her, not for a prostitute. This involves the sheriff, Martin (Stuart Whitman) as Judd tries to tie up all of the loose ends.
I’m not going to lie, this is a wild film. It took me some time to realize what it was actually about, because we kind of just see events as they happen without really much of a story being explained. I actually in the end didn’t really mind this. This actually came out a couple of years after The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but it really feels like director of both, Hooper, took a bit of a step back here. It would have made more sense if this came out first.
Now I will say, I really like the idea of this crazy old man just living in the middle of nowhere. He seems semi-God fearing in that he hates the whorehouse that is just down the road from him. There is a reveal that he used to frequent there according to Miss Hattie. I do dig the idea of this crocodile that lives in the swamp brought over from Africa. Judd is fascinated by it along with the idea it could live forever and that it is just vicious. The problem though becomes I don’t understand why he tries to kill some of these people. He despises Buck, but I feel like he’s the reason the crocodile is there. I could be wrong there. Judd is unreliable though. He also has a wooden leg and I believe he states it was shot, but Miss Hattie gives another reason. He doesn’t really have a reason for going after Roy and his family. I feel like there were just a few things here that could have easily been explained that would have tightened the movie up.
Something I wanted to drop here for the story is what makes this scary is this could really happen. Now I don’t think the crocodile would be as vicious as it is. That’s a bit over the top while also being movie logic. I could definitely see someone living out in the middle of nowhere and killing people. The swamp could really hide bodies and decompose them, so having the crocodile there could also eat them as well, just not as fast. He also wields a long handled scythe which is pretty creepy while also being a cool weapon.
Despite the lack of story for a part of this, I do think the pacing is pretty solid. It runs 91 minutes and really just moves along through what happens. I never got bored during it and I was actually interested in seeing what would happen next. Judd freaking out works in the grand scheme of what the movie needs. He does it does it on the dime. It is also interesting to see him try to direct his victims toward the swamp for obvious reasons. I think the ending was fine for the movie we got. It is quite fitting for sure.
As I alluded to earlier, the acting is pretty interesting. Brand I thought was solid as this manic. He never seems normal, but he goes from 0 to 60 pretty quickly in being crazy which I thought really worked. Burns I thought was good. Finley as her husband was really weird. I really have no idea why he is just losing his mind pretty much the whole time we see it. The only explanation I have currently is the stress of what has happened. It was crazy to see Richards, who I know from Halloween. Sinclaire I also thought was good, but she doesn’t get a lot of screen time. We also have some good cameos from Ferrer, Jones, Englund and Janus Blythe. It is pretty wild the cast that we have here which definitely helps the movie. We also get to see quite a few of these women topless, which I can’t complain about.
That will take me to the effects of the film. To be honest, they were pretty subdued, but it makes sense. I’m sure this movie didn’t have a large budget so they were just doing what they could. The blood looks good and the setting of the film is quite creepy. There wasn’t a moment that took me out of it and if anything, they hid things which definitely helped. It shot very well in my opinion also. I also have to commend the lighting here. The soundtrack also helps to fit the vibe the movie is going for to make it even creepier.
Now with that said, this film isn’t as good as what Hooper has done in films before or even after this one, but it definitely has a creepy vibe. I like the setting and the idea behind this movie; I do think though that they could have developed a bit more of a story. It is paced in a way where it never gets boring and moves through the plot points at a good pace. There’s a really interesting cast and I really didn’t have any issues there, they were solid. It is a bit light on the effects, but what we got were practical and looked good. The soundtrack fits with the country music Judd listens to, while also giving us a creepy vibe with other selections when needed. Overall I’d say this film is slightly above average, but it does have some interesting things going for it. If you like Hooper, I would recommend giving this a viewing.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10