• Martyn Wakefield

EATEN ALIVE [1976] (REVIEW)

previously titled DEATH TRAP


Dir. Tobe Hooper

Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield

Tobe Hooper may be more recognised for his TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE movies and Poltergeist but in EATEN ALIVE, this may well be his greatest work. For many, the film, better known in the UK as DEATH TRAP, has so much horror it could stand on its own merits as being one of the greatest horror movies ever made.

Richly edited to bring this classic to the high definition modern age, Arrow have done another flawless job of converting the grainy film of the 70’s into something that would feel fresh today. The deep reds and neon lights give the film a very giallo feel with the streaming bright colours literally glowing in your face, amidst the madness playing out on screen it all feels so nightmarish, an effect that hasn’t conveyed in previous versions, especially not my old VHS copy.

Mashing up the best parts of PSYCHO, MANIAC and TEXAS CHAINSAW, EATEN ALIVE is a must own for any horror fanatic and if you haven’t seen this film before then you have a new favourite to add to your library. In the middle of nowhere is a hotel managed by mad simpleton Judd (Neville Brand) which sees a number of uninvited guests take lodging. One by one the guests depart but it’s not only Judd’s schizophrenic personality they need to watch out for as his pet crocodile is just as hungry.

Hooper’s film may be overshadowed by his other work but rest assured, EATEN ALIVE is no less tame and is probably more video nasty than even his own TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Whether it’s the insane guests, Robert Englund’s unnerving sex fiend or even the house itself, there is nothing safe about this film and as the credits roll, this movie’s sinister motions linger on.

Where this film isolates itself from other nasties is it’s blurring of the lines between good and evil. Judd is clearly a psychopath but the guests also share their own dark secrets, especially husband Roy (William Finley) whose mentality is as lost as the leads, furthermore a pre-A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Englund plays a sex fiend turned attempted hero to the victims more akin to the dames of Sin City than the eighteen year old virgins the genre is more familiar with. There’s nothing pretty here and Hooper's penchant for terror is ever more present.

Interestingly, as with TCM, the film is loosely based on real life events and the DVD package includes a documentary around Joe Ball to which the character of Judd is based.



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