Out of the Crypt: Horror Revisited: Tobe Hooper’s ‘Eaten Alive’

It’s a relatable premise: a grumpy hotel proprietor feeds immoral and unpleasant customers to his pet crocodile in the swamp pool located in front of his hotel.

We can all relate to this, right? Just me? Okay fine.

This week I’m dishing on 1976’s Eaten Alive. Directed by Tobe Hooper of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame, this spiritual sequel finds Hooper exploring the moist and sticky swamplands of Texas, so in contrast to the hot and dry feeling elicited by TCM.

Where TCM gave you daytime scaries, Eaten Alive is so dark you might find yourself squinting through the fog to see what’s happening.

On its surface, this film functions as a standard creature feature, but it doesn’t feel like a cash grab to leech off the success of Jaws, released the year before. The crocodile is not an independent evil; it is a tool to be used and manipulated by man.

Whatever this film is trying to accomplish is really unclear: it’s a feeling more than a movie. It’s atmosphere. It’s a mood. And it’s certainly spooky.

If you’re looking for a well-thought-out story: turn back now. What you get from this film is simple: a deep dive into the acclaimed director’s macabre mind.

Tobe Hooper’s credits beyond The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are admirable: The Funhouse, Salem’s Lot, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and Poltergeist. Although Eaten Alive has more flaws than successes, it is texturally true to the director’s vision, and for that alone, it is worth checking out.

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