Arrow Films’ release of Eaten Alive is introduced (as part of the extras package) by helmer and Texas Chain Saw Massacre maestro Tobe Hooper, as a parting shout he exclaims “Hope you like the colours!”
Hmm, it starts very shakily and in the space of 11 minutes a woman escapes from a brothel and winds up at a fleapit motel (all clearly set on a studio lot). Two men try to rape her (including a young Robert Englund), she is forked to death (no pun intended) and thrown to a swamp-dwelling creature which could be a crocodile or alligator; locals are unsure. I wish I could tell you it gets better… even though it was adapted by Kim Henkel, Texas Chain Saw Massacre this is not.
All characters stumble upon Judd’s grotty Starlight Hotel with its dirty damp patches and soiled walls – believe when I tell you, you’d rather sleep in your car. Judd (Neville Brand)is a loner Patriot, guns (and American flag) adorn most walls, there’s even a swastika flag draped on a chair. Judd isn’t the type of man to leave you alone, he has a pet alligator and leers suggestively at any and all females that pass through. He’s a misogynist who even takes delight at terrorising a small calliper-wearing (female) child. That said every character is practically irredeemable; child and ‘gator aside. From an unrecognisable Carolyn Jones as brothel owner Hattie, via rugged ‘cowboy’ Sheriff (Stuart Whitman), to arguably the greatest Final Girl Marilyn Burns as Faye who sadly spends most of the film with her mouth taped shut. The filters used create an artificiality, which given the setting makes perfect sense and does add to the whole surreal B-movie effect. Garish reds and blues distort images and there’s a lot of eerie, atmospheric mist over the swamp; in keeping with the red, white, and blue of the flag.
Okay, so dig a little deeper and there are indications of an ideology, the film is playing to affirm and just like Hooper’s earlier work, the family is at the centre but the problem is Eaten Alive – or as it is otherwise known Death Trap – isn’t very good; it’s disjointed and a little exploitative particularly in its scopophilia. There is some inexplicable make-up work and a foray of (dodgy) women’s wigs which further aid the ridiculous.
So yes Tobe, can’t say I enjoyed the film greatly but I liked the colours.