Genuinely scary with some nice directorial flourishes from Hooper
Plot: A psychotic redneck who owns a dilapidated hotel in rural East Texas kills various people who upset him or his business, and he feeds their bodies to a large crocodile that he keeps as a pet in the swamp beside his hotel.
Review: Following his success with the gonzo horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tobe Hooper made another wild and crazy horror grungefest called Eaten Alive (a.k.a. Death Trap), that recalls the same sort of doom and panic-filled aura of that earlier film. In Eaten Alive, a completely maniacal head-hanging hick named Judd (Neville Brand who recalls Klaus Kinski at his craziest) lives alone in the bayou, operating a ramshackle hotel that resides smack in the middle of a swamp inhabited by an ancient African crocodile. Sure enough, Judd seems innocent enough at first, but at the flip of a switch he goes full on wacko, swinging a scythe at full gallop, intent on murdering his customers and feeding them to his pet. When he slaughters a hooker trying to leave the life, her terminally ill father and sister come searching for her. This poses a big problem to the unstable Judd, who suddenly has several mounting issues to deal with: He’s already attacked a family who stopped for directions, and while he’s killed the father/husband, he’s strapped the wife/mother to a bed to torture her, while their little girl is running around under the hotel, screaming her head off as the crocodile is pursuing her. Add to the mix a roustabout named Buck (played by Robert Englund) and his girlfriend frolicking on the premises complicates matters a hundredfold and Judd has his hands full.
Filmed entirely on a soundstage and with interesting lighting and fog effects, Eaten Alive is a fairly successful slasher horror feature with a creature feature filling. There are moments of pure terror during the film, and Hooper’s directorial flourishes are both stylish and fun. Granted, the movie is incredibly misogynistic and viciously violent towards women in particular, but there’s still something inherently watchable and entertaining to Hooper’s early work.
Arrow Video recently released a deluxe Blu-ray / DVD combo package that is totally worth owning, especially if you’re a collector of hardcopy media. Their presentation of the film is stupendous, with a brand new 4K restoration, as well as a ton of special features and supplements to keep you perusing for hours. Included in the features are brand new interviews, documentaries, and an informative insert booklet that provides an essay-like breakdown of the history of the film. There’s also a reversible sleeve with newly commissioned artwork. All said and done, if you’re a fan of Hooper, of horror films, or of Arrow Video, then this release should be a priority to own.