Eaten Alive (1980)
Eaten Alive (1980)
Eaten Alive is the start of Umberto Lenzi’s journey into far more gory cannibal and zombie exploitation films. It’s the story of a young woman who is searching for her missing sister. It turns out the sister is rumored to be a member of a cult in the jungles of New Guinea. She hires some guy to help her in her search. When they locate the strange little community, they also find out that it is surrounded by cannibal tribes, and that they might be better off joining the cult than trying to get out of the jungle alive.
Janet Agren (City of the Living Dead) and Robert Kerman (Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox) star as the adventuring duo searching for the odd religious/hippie cult led by Jonas, played by the Man from deep river himself, Ivan Rassimov (also Jungle Holocaust and Shock). Perhaps he returned after his own ordeals, dyed his hair, and started a cult. Alright, that joke’s going nowhere. Also returning from Man From Deep River is Me Me Lai (also also in Jungle Holocaust). It would appear that cannibal film stars may have a cult of their own (birds of a feather stick together and people trying to not get eaten by other people do too…someone make a meme and get back to me).
Although the gore is greatly amped up in this film from Lenzi’s previous cannibal-ish adventure, it is still quite tame in comparison to many of the more discussed Italian cannibal films. Most of the gore is well done, but it feels like Lenzi has not hit his stride at this point. In fact one of the more laughable gore moments (gore-ments?) is when a character (that will remain undisclosed) has their arm removed at the elbow and eaten. The ‘forearm buried in the sand’ trick didn’t work quite as well in that shot. But despite a few flaws, there is plenty for gorehounds to appreciate.
Here’s the best way to put this into perspective: Eaten Alive is a middle ground between Man From Deep River and Cannibal Ferox. And that really encompasses Lenzi’s cannibal trio (I’ll refrain from calling it a trilogy because they are not sequels of one another). So it basically takes the ideas from Man From Deep River and amps up the gore scale. Unfortunately this makes Eaten Alive feel a bit timid. Not at all timid in the exploitative elements, mind you, but timid in gore, especially when compared with Lenzi’s next cannibal movie. I’ll try to not jump the gun too much, but while viewing this film one may have the feeling that something is missing, or that it just feels incomplete. And then you watch Cannibal Ferox and you feel whole again (or just plain grossed-out if cannibal exploitation isn’t for you). I’m doing a lot of comparison to a film that we haven’t addressed yet (it’s coming soon though, be patient), but my point is that when you’re aware of what kind of cannibal carnage Lenzi is capable of, Eaten Alive will fall short. That being said, this is still an entertaining watch.