Eaten Alive

Wicked Wednesday: Eaten Alive (1970)

This month, I’ve opted myself into a Letterboxd challenge to watch 100 new-to-me horror movies by the end of October. Now, even though I mostly write about movies these days…I don’t actually watch that many movies. (I have other hobbies, you know!) But even though I’m only two and a half weeks in, the challenge has me getting to movies that I’ve been putting off for too long.

Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive has called out to me many times and for many reasons. But biggest of all? Killer crocodiles!

Eaten Alive was released between not only what are two of my favourite Hooper movies but two of my most favourite horror movies ever: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Funhouse. So there was certainly a bit of anticipation going into this one for the first time.

Thankfully, for me, this scuzzy little movie didn’t disappoint.

Judd is a lonely old man who runs a rundown hotel in the swamps of Texas. One night, his peace is disturbed by Clara, a sex worker who has been kicked out of the town brothel for refusing to have sex with a client. While he takes her up to her room, he decides to attack her.

Clara tries to protect herself, but she’s soon killed by Judd and is fed to his crocodile.

Days later, Judd’s peace is disturbed yet again by the arrival of a rather-whacky family. Shortly after the family’s arrival, their dog Snoopy is eaten by the croc. The young daughter, Angie, begins to have a meltdown. It doesn’t help that her parents begin to argue in the meantime.

To make Judd’s situation even worse, his other new guests are the father and sister of a missing young woman…who just happens to be the sex worker he fed to a crocodile.

The story alternates between the young family being attacked and chased by Judd, Clara’s family’s attempts to find her, and Robert Englund generally being a creep.

I seem to have the opposite opinion to many people. Some of the criticisms of the film include the lighting. But for me, I adore the red-saturated Argento-style lights. It feels so seedy and gross. Really, I loved the way everything looked. Unlike The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which has the vast emptiness of Texas, Eaten Alive feels very closed in. A very 1960s shot on-sets kind of vibe. It’s difficult to see what’s going on beyond the mists. And for me, that makes everything all the more unsettling.

There’s also a very good cast in this. Ranging from Hollywood icons like Neville Brand, Carolyn Jones and Mel Ferrer to future-icons of the genre like Englund, Marilyn Burns and William Finley (“SWAAAAAAN!!!”). Everyone is seemingly loosing their minds to perfection. It’s a joy to watch. I particularly enjoyed Brand’s performance as Judd. Completely unhinged, yet was pathetic enough to almost make you feel sorry for him.

Almost.

But even more, Eaten Alive was loosely based around the true story and myths of Joe Ball. In Texas folklore, Ball fed his enemies and ex-wives to his gator. In reality, most of this is probably not true – as there was never any evidence of it. Though I do think Hooper does a great job of spinning this tall tale into a truly horrific story.

I’m so glad I finally took the plunge and watched Eaten Alive. A fun movie that I can’t wait to watch again.