Eaten Alive (1980) – By Josh Samford

So, I’m writing currently in a journal as I watch the film Eaten Alive from director Umberto Lenzi. I still to this day have not experienced his work in the Spaghetti Crime subgenre, but frankly I can’t help but feel a lack of enthusiasm for his work. Hey, maybe he’s truly a artist of the sensational, but if he is, I must be watching the wrong flicks. It’s not that I’m a snob to this sort of thing, not in the slightes – hey, I make it quite known that I’m a big fan of Ruggero Deodatto (Cannibal Holocaust, Jungle Holocaust, etc.), it’s just that I like a little brain in my exploitation. That’s just the way my ma’ma raised me I guess. Now, as I watch a crocodile being ripped open as it flops around helplessly, I humor myself asking why I watch this sort of stuff. Obviously because of the endurance it takes to stomach this sort of on-screen violence (hey, us horror geeks are simple to please and are always trying to one-up each other) – and the monkey with his head in a snake’s mouth currently having it’s life squeezed out of it seems a testament that very statement. It’s also part of just my goals to complete the collection, a much geekier concept than pushing the human endurance to be sure. As it now stands, the only other big Italian cannibal movie I can think that I haven’t seen is probably Lenzi’s previous cannibal effort, The Man From Deep River. As sad as it is, I guess the torture won’t stop until I’ve seen all that the subgenre has to offer – and sadly, as a veteran of these films, I’m going to say I don’t expect much different from everything else I’ve seen.

So, if you’re wondering exactly what this particular canibal flick may be about and what seperates it from the crowd… well, not a whole lot keeps it on the on the original tip, but at least it’s pretty true to it’s genre cliches, which I ashamedly admit can be a bit of fun. I mean, hey, if you’re going to make a crappy movie – why not make one just as crappy as all the others instead of falling short and try to make up for your shortcomings in terms of originality with a helping of style and energy… both things Eaten Alive kind of lacks. So anyway, the basic plot consists of a religious cult of cannibals in the South American jungles, transported from New York where their wackyness originally took root where it was started by a man named “Jonas”. After one of Jonas’ cannibal henchman is killed in New York, after inexplicably killing three random New Yorkers via a cobra-venom based dart in the neck. Inside the pocket of said cannibal, he just so happens to have an 8mm movie of Jonas’ tribe and a Caucasian brunette woman. Of course, the police take the film directly to the woman’s sister – and a ‘doctor’ just for good measure – so from there if you haven’t guessed that the film turns into a cheesy rescue mission full of outlandish stock footage and cheap gore effects – you just haven’t seen enough cannibal movies. So, the sister heads off to meet her family out in the unforgiving terrain, and along the way she meets up with Roger Kerman (Cannibal holocaust) who plays against type and is cast as the Indiana Jones tough-guy role. Kind of hard to buy into? Yes. He’s still quite entertaining in his campy attitude. I still have to say, a cannibal film just isn’t complete without classic Italian exploitation actor John Morghen; and he absolutely would have been perfect for the role.

Now, as the movie dwindles down and I watch what has to be the eleventy dozenth piece of crap-stock-footage scene rolling by my eyes; I have to say, the film as a whole seems to be pretty… meh. It’s definitely a by-the-numbers foray into the greanre – but it still beats the incredibly lame Cannibal Ferox – which didn’t even shoot on location half as much as this; but neither are classics in my estimation. As the violence escilates, as human beings are LITERALLY Eaten Alive before my eyes, I take notice of the shameless stealing of scenes from Deodatto’s Cannibal Holocaust. I find myself even more unable to must much respect for Lenzi. I hope that doesn’t make me lose face amongst the gorehound community, but my respect for the man is just pretty nill. I still have to admit, the whole riffing on the Jonestown massacre, although I have seen it done better once again in a Deodatto film “Cut and Run”, it still at least gives the film some worth. At least seemingly some. Though, once you know it’s about Jonestown, it kind of gives away the ending – doesn’t it? Though, if you come to these films for any kind of message, much less a history lesson… well, that’s just sad. So, with all of that said and done, I have to admit, yes… I did have fun with the film. Completely from the unintentional humor of course and the horrific dubbing – but that’s part of the fun of these things aren’t they? I’d definitely reccomend it only for the likes of collectors, but what can I say, there are much worse entries out there. Give it a rent well before you do Cannibal Ferox, but not before Zombi Holocaust which is the King of crappy cannibal movies and just has to be seen for all it’s horrifically bad glory.