Thursday, July 3, 2008

Review: Eaten Alive, Dark Sky Films 2-disc DVD with Images

Buy Eaten Alive (Two-Disc Special Edition)
So much as it seems, it is not real easy to write a "review" on a horror film about a guy who runs a hotel in the deep swamp and feeds passers-by to his pet crocodile. Eaten Alive cannot be reviewed. I'm sure Roger Ebert would beg to differ but I have a theory: A film this weird can't be touched by the hand of judgement, lest it laugh back at you. Seriously.

The pseudo-intellectual analysis bit works for films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but Eaten Alive is way too bizarre for criticism. You either appreciate it or you don't. Easy, right? Well, Watching Eaten Alive is like walking through a whole day tripping on acid. Tobe Hooper crafted a film that seems to exist somewhere between surrealism and just plain madness. I know I like it, but can't understand why, which endears it even more to the abstract. Eaten Alive gives the sense of piecing a long forgotten dream together in chronological order, stitching disparate parts to one another so you have a "narrative" by which to map out and make sense of it all, not that it is hard follow. It's just so compartmentalised that it borders on the personal. Again Tobe Hooper made an "art" film for the genre masses. But, sadly, this film seems lost on it's target audience. To explain the "plot" or to investigate theme would be nonsensical for a film of this type. You just have to watch it and remain benign until the credits roll. To express Eaten Alive as an oddity would be an understatement.

The DVD treatment is fair, to be honest. Not spectacular like Dark Sky's TCM 2-disc set, which I'd argue can not be bested. 1.85:1 ratio enhanced for wide screen TV, and 2.0 mono by Dolby. The print is solid for a film shot in studio under what can only be called harsh lighting conditions due to the lighting style; dark, smoked out atmosphere highlighted entirely with reds, greens, blues, and yellows. Actually, the films cinematography reminds one of Suspiria, though not as artfully realized or executed. Grain will be prevalent on larger screens but it is of no worry. Grain works on a film like this... Some elements seem to have been brought together from different sources. Streaks and scratches are here and there with exposure changes in a single shot, but, hey, this was a drive-in picture with prints that I imagine being dragged across some sticky projection room floor! The extras are nice: a commentary featuring cast and crew (absent is Hooper), 20 min. interview with Tobe Hooper, 15 min. interview with Robert Englund, 5 min. interview with Marilyn Burns, alternate title/credit sequences, 23 min. documentary on the films real life inspiration, loads of trailers and commercials, and the usual slide-show. All in all another fine release by Dark Sky Films that I'm proud to own. Recommended most heartily to Tobe Hooper completists.

Gathered below are some favorite stills of Eaten Alive. Please forgive the quality of these captures, I feel it is time for a new DVD program. The act of catching motion fits it well not. Enjoy, but be warned: some of these images act as SPOILERS.

Englund prepares for the "Greek" maneuver!

First victim.

Atmosphere to spare...

Doggy treat?

Flesh wound I


Croc attack I

When Neville Brand attacks! I

Mel Ferrer sells the SPFX.

Guilty(?) Pleasure I

Croc attack II


When Neville Brand attacks! II

Guilty(?) Pleasure II

Flesh wound II

Brand learns about Karma.

Croc with 90 degree jaw!

Crocs really won't eat "anything"...

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