Monday, June 29, 2020

Eaten Alive / *** (1976)

Much of what occurs on-screen in “Eaten Alive” is rooted in the sort of exploitative chutzpah of 70s horror films that frequently inspired those first audiences to recoil in utter disgust. Already familiar with those dubious qualities from his “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” of course, director Tobe Hooper committed to a similar premise that might as well have been transcribed from the diary of those original maniacs: a motel manager with crippling nervous ticks routinely invites strangers into his run-down establishment, terrorizes them and then murders them in cold blood before throwing their bodies – sometimes while still breathing – over the edge of his porch for a nearby crocodile to feast on. Occasionally, those victims will include relatives of prior victims, who go in search of their lost loved ones by retracing their steps right back to the spot of their demise. Yet somehow they resist all initial urges to question the shady nature of the establishment: stained wallpaper, rickety stairs and unstable floor boards all seem to suggest that a place like this would have been long condemned by the health board, much less been allowed to run a continuous operation. How do they allow themselves to dismiss skepticism long enough to accept lodgings? Why do they feel comfortable leaving behind their own belongings while they venture back into the city searching for clues? These are the impulses of men and women who have never even heard of a horror film, much less ever been in a situation where they are asked to exchange platitudes with eccentric recluses who smell of violence and shame.