October 16, 2014

Movie Review: Eaten Alive! (1980)

In recent years there are few areas of film that I have fallen for more than Italian horror. There is just so much to love, they are the movies that keep on giving. Now, my knowledge of them is not always the best, but it is growing all the time. What is fun is watching a movie you think you had seen, only to realize you haven't. The movie in question is Eaten Alive! and is not to be confused with Tobe Hooper's movie of the same name, sans exclamation point. This one, from Umberto Lenzi, has more man eating cannibals and less man eating alligator. Still, I would have sworn I had seen it before, but I think I just saw other movies that were related to it.

No one makes cannibal movies like the Italians. They knew no bounds and were not afraid to take the level of exploitation to the limits. Beyond the expected man eating, they have gratiotous nudity, rape, mutilation, and often actual animal violence. Funny, the one thing that gets to me (and rightly so) is the animal violence. I have somewhat made my peace with it, but I do not expect everyone to, it isn't easy to watch. It kind of amps up the effect of the person on person violence. Anyway, this one is not a pure cannibal film, but it firmly fits in the canon among the likes of Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Apocalypse, Jungle Holocaust, Mountain of the Cannibal God (another I haven't seen), and Man from Deep River.

Eaten Alive! Is part cannibal flick and part crazy cult flick. It takes the likes of Jungle Holocaust (somewhat literally) and injects real-world inspired elements into the mix. Lenzi, who also handled the writing duties, took some inspiration from Jim Jones' Peoples Temple and the mass suicide in 1978. It is an odd mix that takes the cannibal movie in new directions by taking it to a meta level by using footage from other cannibal films, most notably Jungle Holocaust. Think about it, he made a cannibal movie, in part, by cannibalizing other cannibal movies! How brilliant is that? Well, probably more brilliant thinking about it than in execution. While fun, it is not great, possibly brought down a bit by the reused footage.

At the center of the tale is Sheila (Janet Agren), a young woman in search of her sister, Diana (Paola Senatore). It appears she has run off to South America and joined a “Purification” cult headed by a guy named Jonas (Ivan Rassimov). Sheila heads south, but needs help, so she enlists the help of a money-hungry Vietnam vet named Mark (Robert Kerman). So, the two of them head into the jungles in search of Diana. And find her they do, along with cannibals and Jonas. Will any of them get out alive?

The trio team with local native, and recent widow, Mowara (Me Me Lai) and attempt their escape. Of course, it is not that easy. Crazy cult followers behind you, man eating cannibals in front of you. This is a fun, if not great movie. It certainly entertains, and at times is fun to play the “guess where that footage came from” game. It also plays well when you want a cannibal movie that isn't all about the cannibals.

Lenzi can certainly put together an entertaining movie and this does manage to entertain. Still, it has to be considered one of the lesser cannibal films and Lenzi certainly made better movies (love his take on the zombie genre, Nightmare City, not to mention the previously stated Cannibal Ferix), but it still entertains. Just beware of the animal bits, and the pieces of other movies and you'll be fine. It is grimy, nasty, and at times unpleasant, but that is what makes these that fun to watch. Well, sometimes.

Mildly Recommended.

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