Directed by Tobe Hooper
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
“My name is Buck and I’m rarin’ to fuck!” So says Robert Englund as he portrays quite possibly the sleaziest character of his career at the very opening of Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive. Honestly that sets the tone for the entire film. This is a movie that revels in its sleaze. So much so in fact that I’m sure a lot of people may have even shut it off midway through if they made it that far. Eaten Alive is filled with unlikable characters, dismal settings, bleak outcomes, and generally depressing atmosphere. Some would venture to say that’s part of what contributes to making it a classic.
We meet the proud owner of the Starlight Motel, Judd (Brand), as he welcomes a runaway who has decided that a whore’s life is not for her. That’s all fine well and good until Judd recognizes the poor kid as one of Miss Hatty’s girls. Upon this realization, Judd is overcome with sexual perversion and assaults the young lass. She fights back but it isn’t long before she ends up a midnight snack for the huge crocodile Judd keeps as a pet. That’s just the start of the night. Later on other weary travelers arrive including the ever sexy and totally tortured Marilyn (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) Burns. Tobe just loves seeing the former Miss Hardesty subdued, bound, and screaming! Can these folks avoid being more meat for the beast? Can anyone stop Judd? Is anyone still watching?
Eaten Alive is not a feel good film. It’s a bizarre, obscure, and thoroughly crazed journey into the madness of rural America. As such it’s actually pretty hard to rate on the usual scale of good or bad. See it and decide for yourselves.
Dark Sky Films has put together quite a package here in this two-disc set. The supplemental features on disc one amount to nothing more than a commentary with producer Mardi Rustam, actors Roberta Collins, William Finley, and Kyle Richards, along with make-up artist Craig Reardon, and the as-per-usual still gallery. The commentary is an interesting listen and makes the film seem much less heavy-handed but you cannot help but wonder where Hooper is. Now on to the meat of disc-two.
To my delight the majority of the special features here come courtesy of Michael Felsher and his company Red Shirt Pictures. These guys know how to put together bonus material for horror films and right now they’re at the top of their game. Things kick off with the nineteen minute featurette, The Gator Creator with Tobe Hooper. Here Mr. Hooper waxes on about what it was like coming off of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and jumping on to this project. Tobe is a fascinating guy with a lot to say. If there’s anything wrong with the DVD package it’s the lack of more Hooper. From there we get a fifteen minute piece called, Robert Englund: My Name is Buck. A Look Back at Eaten Alive. Ever wonder about Robert’s influences and how he got into the genre? Prepare to get all your answers A.S.A.P. as a lot is covered in this short run time. Next up, 5ive Minutes with Marilyn which is (as you may have guessed) a five minute conversation with Hooper’s go-to scream queen, Marilyn Burns. Her segment rounds out the interview portion of these features nicely but there’s still more to come.
If Leatherface was inspired by the real life exploits of Ed Gein, than it’s safe to say that the infamous Joe Ball inspired the Judd character in Eaten Alive. Hooper just loves the crazies! The next featurette is a twenty-three minute documentary titled, The Butcher of Elmendorf: The Legend of Joe Ball. This segment is comprised of snippets of an interview with Joe’s nephew, Richard “Bucky” Ball and offers some insight into the life of murderous old Joe and his hungry pet gators. Sadly this was a bit on the dull side, but it’s still interesting enough to warrant a view. From there we get to see and hear some radio and TV spots for Eaten Alive (under several different titles including Starlight Slaughter and Death Trap), are treated to various green and red band trailers (again with numerous titles) including the Japanese trailer, along with an eight minute animated slide show, alternate opening and closing credits, and finally the coolest new feature yet — a look at the actual audience comment cards from the film’s test screening. Holy shit some of these are hilarious! Now tell me that isn’t one hell of a full package! It’s amazing that Dark Sky can whip out everything but the kitchen sink for Eaten Alive, yet Warner Brothers barely shits out anything at all for their Poltergeist: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD (review here). What a world.
So is this DVD worth your time? If you’re a fan of this flick it’s a gold mine! Is the flick any good? Honestly I don’t know. Again, it’s really hard to judge so I’m going to play it straight down the middle here, folks. Like it or not, Eaten Alive deserves its rightful place in our genre. I’m still just trying to figure out just where that is.
2 1/2 out of 5
5 out of 5
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