Review Date: August 24, 2001
Released by: EC Entertainment
Release date: June 15, 2001
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
A series of three murders has authorities baffled. One man was murdered at Niagara Falls with a dart dipped in cobra venom. Two other men were murdered in downtown New York City by the same assassin, an Asiatic man who was hit and killed by a truck while fleeing the scene of his third crime. The only clue the police have is an 8mm film reel found on his body, addressed to one Diana Morris, a woman who had gotten involved with a crazy religious leader named Jonas and who has since disappeared. They send for Dianaís sister, Sheila (Janet Agren
), to ask for her help, and she takes the film to Professor Carter (Mel Ferrer
), an anthropologist. The film contains footage of Diana (Paola Senatore
) taking part in a bizarre ceremony where people are hung up on hooks by their skin.
Carter suspects the film may have been shot in New Guinea, where such religious ceremonies still take place. A street woman who knew Jonas confirms that he and his followers have relocated there to build some sort of settlement in the jungle. Sheila decides to go after her sister. Upon arriving in the country, the local police chief introduces her to Mark Butler (Robert Kerman
), an American who deserted from the U.S. Army in Vietnam, and now makes a living (somewhat) arm wrestling in local bars. After she offers him $20,000 for his help, he reluctantly agrees to lead her to the village in the jungle where the film was shot.
The two arrive to find that Jonas and his followers have since moved on, and are now living in some sort of community much deeper in the jungle. They hire several guides to take them upriver into the tropical wilderness, but their canoe is attacked by a crocodile, which eats one guide and forces the others to go on by land. Then their second guide promptly runs out on them, but heís devoured by a tribe of cannibals. The flesh-eaters go after Mark and Sheila, but they are rescued by a patrol of men out of Jonasí village.
Jonas (Ivan Rassimov
), as it turns out, is more than just a loony religious fanatic. Heís also a sadist and a pervert, who rules the community through brutality and mind control tricks. Sheila is reunited with Diana, but there is no way for the two of them and Mark to leave. Not only will the cult not permit it, but the jungle is thick, and the countryside is crawling with cannibals. However, Jonas begins drugging Sheila and, as he has done to Diana and many other women, sexually molesting her. It becomes clear to Mark that they only have one choice - take a risk on becoming cannibal food and flee the village.
is a bad movie, make no mistake about that. In fact, itís probably one of the worst movies that director Umberto Lenzi has ever made, and is definitely the worst of the cannibal films. The story itself is an amalgamation of jungle and horror elements, with a strong nod towards the real life Jim Jones mass-suicide tragedy that had taken place in Guyana two years earlier. With this mishmash of a plot, itís not surprising that the film contains holes in logic big enough to sail a battleship through - including the nagging question of why, if the jungle around the compound is surrounded by cannibals that prevent anyone from leaving, then how were the cultists able to build the compound in the first place? Very little of the movie is ever given an adequate explanation.
However, if youíre like me - a fan of atrociously bad, cheesy films - you will be able to get some enjoyment out of the film. Eaten Alive
manages to rival Lenziís insane City of the Walking Dead/Nightmare City
in unintentional humor. Exploitation fans will have fun picking out all the footage lifted from earlier cannibal movies, and the dialogue is rife with quotably bad lines ("Instead of buying frozen meat in the supermarket, they get theirs fresh from people like you."). The dubbing adds further insult to injury - the characters of both Sheila and Diana are described as being "from Alabama", which results in some hilariously bad on/off Southern accents.
In the end, though, whatever "camp" qualities the film possesses are undone by itís grim sexual violence and graphic scenes of animal mutilation - familiar sights for viewers of cannibal films. If the movie itself was better, such spectacles would be bearable, but itís not, and I can really only recommend Eaten Alive for the most tolerant horror fans out there.
Previously released on DVD by EC Entertainment two years ago with a weak-looking transfer ported over from their earlier laserdisc, the company has now done much to correct their mistake by giving Eaten Alive
a brand new transfer, letterboxed at 1.78:1 and enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
The first thing I noticed about this new transfer is how much more colorful it is when compared to the old one. Flesh tones and hues like green, red and blue are all much more vibrant now. The image is also smoother and a little bit sharper compared to the old transfer. However, this release still has some faults, as are probably to be expected considering that this was a very low-budget film shot on 16mm film stock. The image still appears rather grainy (though not quite as bad as with the first release), and there are still some specks, splices, scratches and vertical lines littered throughout the presentation. Not a perfect transfer, but it is a big step forward over the old edition. I'm going to give this new release a B-, whereas the old one barely squeaked by with a C-.
The sound, in Dolby 2.0 Mono, is a slight improvement over the previous edition, although it hasn't been improved nearly as dramatically as the image quality. Occasional distortion could still be heard, but it wasn't as bad, and overall the track seemed a little bit more vibrant compared to the first release. No alternate language tracks or subtitles are provided, unlike the first release, which had removable English subtitles.
The first release contained just an English-language trailer for this film and one for A Blade in the Dark
as supplements. Although the latter trailer is missing from this release, the former has been retained, and a German-language trailer for Eaten Alive
has been included as well. Also new included on this release is a still gallery featuring a number of video covers and lobby cards, and an insert with an Umberto Lenzi filmography and biography, which was promised but never delivered with the first release.
Well, this new transfer and added supplements don't make the movie any better, but it does make this release a much better deal for fans of the movie. Eaten Alive
isn't the best of the Italian cannibal films, nor is it probably the best film for people interested in that genre to start with, but for those who enjoy it or are seriously into cannibal flicks, this is a disc you should definitely pick up.
Movie - D+
Image Quality - B-
Sound - B
Supplements Ė B-
- Running Time - 1 hour 29 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- 14 Chapter Stops
- Dolby Digital Mono 2.0
- English and German language trailers
- Still gallery
- Umberto Lenzi filmography/biography