Just skimming through the filmography of director Tobe Hooper and seeing titles like SALEM’S LOT, THE FUNHOUSE & LIFEFORCE would be more than enough to earn him the title as a “master of horror,” but quite frankly, he could’ve been crowned it right out of the gate in 1974 with his horror debut masterpiece THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. So it’s always fun and surprising to fill in little pockets from a filmmaker’s resume that I may not have seen yet. I always had a vague memory of seeing his 1976 cult classic (and CHAIN SAW follow-up) EATEN ALIVE, but after popping in the newly released Arrow US Blu-Ray, I have definitely never experienced this bonkers movie and am thrilled that this brand new 2K restoration was the way my virgin eyes experienced it.
It opens with a very, very young Robert Englund about to get it on with a prostitute. The camera is focused on his belt buckle as it pulls back and his first line of dialogue is “Name’s Buck… and I’m rarin’ to fuck.” (Yes, this was later homaged in Quentin Tarantino’s KILL BILL!) After a brief struggle, the unwilling girl runs off and retreats to a seedy, dirty little motel up the road. The owner Judd (played by Neville Brand) is pretty much the entire Sawyer clan from the original CHAINSAW all rolled up into one, perverted character. He has a penchant for losing his temper and murdering his guests, but no problem. There’s a giant damned crocodile in the lake out back that he feed his victims to.
That’s just the start of it! Stylistically, this feels much more like the movie Hooper could’ve made before TEXAS CHAIN SAW in that it’s so unrefined and noisy. The sound design and score are so disoriented, it makes you feel much like Sally Hardesty during the dinner table scene at the end of CHAIN SAW slowly losing your mind. But this Blu-Ray shines in the fact that the picture is absolutely flawless. The first third of the movie is bathed in this pink-ish, purple light straight out of an Argento movie. Whereas during the second half, Hooper drops this and the motel is drowned out in atmospheric white clouds of fog, ala an old Hammer movie. It’s really so bizarre in every possible way.
William Finley shows up with his family and he pretty quickly becomes crocodile food, while his wife (the late, great Marilyn Burns) becomes Judd’s captive! So yet again, she spends another movie tied up, hysterical and screaming. Man, did Hooper ever put her through the ringer! The prostitute from the opening? Her father and sister are looking for her and end up at the motel too. But then detour to the local pub with the town Sheriff where even more weirdness occurs as Buck is about to fight some random patron for staring at his (most likely underage) girlfriend. Really, I can barely articulate the things that transpire in this movie, but it’s just so crazy and has a bitchin’ looking crocodile, that it’s my Killer POV Pick Of The Week.
Most of you probably remember seeing this on an old VHS copy or even previous DVD releases, but trust me, you haven’t really seen it until you see this beautifully restored Arrow disc. It also features a slew of interviews, both recent and archival so you can get the whole wacky history of this thing in one sitting.
You can hear me talk about this and several other horror titles on this week’s new episode of Killer POV on Geeknation.com. Our special guest is writer/producer Sandy King Carpenter! We get to discuss her working experiences with legendary directors John Cassevetes, Michael Mann, John Hughes, Francis Ford Coppola, Jeff Lieberman and of course John Carpenter. Listen right here.