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Eaten Alive (DVD)

An exploitation film in the same way The Godfather is a gangster movie, Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre combined grindhouse grit with the technical brilliance of a first-rate suspense film to create a deeply unsettling horror classic. Over the years, it's become one of those movies that everyone has heard of, even if they've never seen it. Hooper's immediate follow-up to Chainsaw, however, fell into obscurity almost upon its 1976 release, more or less remaining there until its recent unearthing for this DVD. Much in the same vein as Chainsaw, but a good deal less successful, Eaten Alive (variously known as Brutes And Savages, Starlight Slaughter, Murder On The Bayou, Horror Hotel, Horror House Hotel, Legend Of The Bayou, and Death Trap) stars venerable heavy Neville Brand as a kooky, one-legged innkeeper whose backwater hotel serves as a locus for a lot of Southern weirdness. Alone with a mannequin, a monkey in a cage, a Nazi flag, and a hungry alligator, the constantly mumbling Brand's madness reaches a breaking point after he murders a prostitute. Before long, he begins toting a scythe and terrorizing a cast of character actors who include Mel Ferrer, The Addams Family's Carolyn Jones, Chainsaw's Marilyn Burns, and a young Robert Englund playing an anally fixated ruffian. Though there's no shortage of strangeness in Eaten Alive, there's little else to recommend it. Lacking the eerie plausibility and stylishness of Chainsaw, yet filled with dead dogs, terrorized children, and bound women, it never transcends its Z-grade origins. It's an interesting footnote, and will likely be of interest to hardcore horror fans, but those looking for a lost masterpiece will likely come away disappointed.

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