Monday, October 09, 2023

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown- Day 9: Eaten Alive (1976)

Eaten Alive was Tobe Hooper's follow-up to 1974's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, so I figured, as a horror fan, I should probably watch it. 

I was wrong.

I know there are some people who can't really deal with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre because it's too grimy, and cheap, and...unpleasant. Eaten Alive has helped me understand where they're coming from, because it is all of those things, but the one thing it does not have in common with Chainsaw's not very good.

Chainsaw is definitely not a pleasant viewing experience, but it's so well-crafted, with a truly intriguing villain and a heroine you want to see through to the end if only because her survival seems so unlikely after all she goes through. But Eaten Alive really has none of that.

Set in the Louisiana bayou, though clearly filmed entirely on a sound stage, the basic set-up is a crazy hotel proprietor (Neville Brand) keeps a crocodile in the swamp behind his hotel, feeding it animals and guests, depending on his mood, which is usually batshit crazy.

Truth be told, I had to turn the movie off about 15 minutes into it after the third shot of a clearly dying monkey in a cage, and I kind of wish I'd never come back to it because what follows is the chomping of a puppy, which traumatizes the puppy's owner, a little girl wearing a polio brace. She basically spends half the movie trying to get away from both the crocodile and the crazy. And when I mean crazy, I don't just mean hotel owner Judd. Turns out her father is also a certifiable loon, and her mother (played by Chainsaw's sole survivor, Marilyn Burns) isn't much better.

Also, why in the world are Mel Ferrer and Carolyn Jones in this? And why does Jones look like she's wearing one of Leatherface's leftover masks in all of her scenes? Why does Marilyn Burns wear a wig for the first ten minutes of her screen time? Why do people even agree to stay at the Starlight Hotel the second they meet the owner and he starts talking about his pet crocodile? And where is that insane red light that permeates every scene coming from?

It's kind of astounding Tobe Hooper was able to come out of the gate with something as good as Texas Chainsaw because I really doubt Eaten Alive would have ever gotten him a second picture deal.

I watched Eaten Alive on Shudder.

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