Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


EATEN ALIVE (1977). Director: Tobe Hooper.

Eaten Alive (aka Starlight Slaughter) was Tobe Hooper's follow-up to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it pretty much suggests that the success of the first film was a fluke. Texas was crude, messy, disjointed, but it had a certain energy (especially at the end) that is generally missing from Eaten Alive -- even the climax is disappointing. Neville Brand offers a boring, mannered performance as Judd, the proprietor of the rundown Starlight Hotel near the swamp. Judd has sort of a pet alligator -- which he insists is actually a crocodile from Africa -- that tore off his leg and now munches on the guests after Brand dispatches them with his scythe. We never learn if Judd routinely kills off anyone who stays at his place or if he just happened to go on a rampage that day, possibly because one of the hookers shows up from the whorehouse that he was banned from (all he did there was mutter and stare and creep everyone out.) Carolyn Jones is fun as the madame of the brothel, while Stuart Whitman as the sheriff, Mel Ferrer as the hooker's father, and other actors offer professional turns. Robert Englund, who played Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street films, is amusingly cast as a sort of swaggering town stud. The whole production is bathed in Mario Bava-like colors, especially crimson, and the film has a grainy, dreamy look to it. With a better director at the helm, Eaten Alive might have amounted to a decent shocker, but the film has no scares, suspense or surprises, and the jangling score -- co-composed by Hooper -- should have been replaced with one less irritating and much eerier. Like Texas Chainsaw, Eaten Alive often comes off like a schlocky parody of a horror movie, only it seems to be played straight despite all the (often unintentionally) comical moments. It is never explained why the gator is so hungry that it attacks and devours so many people in such a short space of time (or maybe it just drags them to its den for a midnight supper?). Not quite as gruesome as Texas but there's a lot more gore (nothing over the top, however).

Verdict: More funny than frightening for the most part. **.

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