Eaten Alive/Review 2
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
I've never seen Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, but most of the elements in that film became a milestone in cinema history and pop culture. I'm pretty sure that we all know the whole premise about Janet Leigh's character and her memorable death scene. I think most of us know the ending even if we haven't seen it before too. Well, for whatever reason, Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive reminds me of it.
This film is really simple. It's about a maniacal redneck named Judd who owns The Starlight Hotel, which is pretty old and has a ferocious pet crocodile in a swamp (he claims that the crocodile came from Africa). Then, four sets of characters come to the hotel...
A) Clara, a hooker who refused to work, arrives at the hotel since she get lost. Sadly, Judd tries to rape her and kills her after Clara refused his advances. B) A family, including Faye (played by the original scream queen Marilyn Burns), Roy, and their daughter Angie (played by Kyle Richards). Unfortuantely, Angie's dog Snoopy is getting killed by the crocodile so Faye and Roy have to calm their daughter. C) Harvey and his daughter Libby, come to the hotel to find out about her daughter....which appears to be Clara. D) Buck (played by the great Robert Englund), a ruthless guy who wants to have sex with girls arrives with another girl to have a good time.
Of course, not all of these characters are going to survive. Actually, you could guess that. It's not really surprising to find out the survivors are at this savage hotel.
Although this film is worse than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Tobe's previous film, I enjoyed watching it because of various factors. First, it was shot on a soundstage which makes it look like a 50's-60's Thriller moreso than the later Splatter/Gore types. It's not going to shock or scare the hell out of you, but it has an interesting story to follow. This leads us to the next topic: the cool lighting (which is Tobe's trademark, especially on his remake of Invaders From Mars) that creates tension and a haunting mood. For example, the very first scene that depicts Clara talking to Judd in the dark hides his face from the audience. This technique creates a scary and dangerous feeling visual. Also, the soundtrack in this film plays a large part. It has a lot of country songs that are played in both cheery and torture scenes which creates tension. On the other hand, the score (by Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper) is kinda similar to TCM. It's weird, noisy, but creates really good audio effects for the audience.
Since I mentioned that this film is not as good as TCM, I'll have to tell you the reasons why. The scares in this film are 35% created by the lighting/setting while the rest are created by generic exploitation film methods. A rape scene? Check. A "real" animal getting killed on screen? Check. Gory effects? Check. Torture scene? Check. This method to make the film scary is kinda lame compared to TCM. In that film, it has very few gory scenes and most of the tension is built from a dark, hopeless, and REALLY scary atmosphere. Next on the disadvantage list are the characters. There are too many of them. There are lots of scenes that show characters walking around or screaming just to make sure that audience doesn't forget about him/her. Also, our main antagonist, Judd, has a lack of motive behind the killings. In TCM, the film implies that either the new technology of killing animals or the same brutal job that Sawyer family have been working for a very long time made them insane. Here, we have no idea why Judd kills and treats women badly. Think about it, his hotel has a very few customers. If you were Judd, would you make sure the hotel got more customers or kill people to make sure that no one comes to the place? Come on!
To sum it up, this film isn't as bad as many people say and it's not as scary as TCM, but still a really fun movie to watch for its stylized setting and offbeat craziness. Recommended.
Nuttawut Permpithak hails from Thailand. He spends his free time watching exploitation films (or any films from the past) writing articles, taking photos and reviewing films for GCDb.