Crocodiles Make Fine Pets (Eaten Alive, 1976)

Eaten_Alive_PosterTobe Hooper followed up his classic horror the Texas Chainsaw Massacre by traversing similar ground but in a different way. Set in rural Texas, Judd runs the local Starlight Hotel.  It is a remote location, with its own swamp.  And in that swamp? Judd keeps a giant crocodile.  And guess what he feeds it?

Judd is your standard movie religious psychotic redneck.  He kills prostitutes, he kills johns, he kills people who might expose him for killing prostitutes and so on.

Everything about this film feels like a sub-par take on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Both were made with obvious low budgets, yet here it just makes the film look cheap.  In place of any tension, the film feels sleazy and generally unpleasant.

Probably the most interesting thing about the film is the cast.  It features a young Robert Englund, and several familiar faces, such as Mel Ferrer and Neville Brand.  And yes, the woman running the brothel is Morticia Addams, Carolyn Jones.

This was ultimately a disappointing follow-up to a classic.


Let’s Visit Texas Part 1 (the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974)

the_texas_chainsaw_massacre_posterI think the lesson in this film franchise is never take a road trip to Texas.  But anyways, the original film about a family of twisted and likely inbred rednecks is based very loosely on Wisconsin’s Ed Gein.

Gein is pretty notorious for his grave robbing and making furniture from human bodies.  He also confessed to killing two women.  But it is the creepy house of horrors that really seemed to inspire Tobe Hooper and his team.*

Hooper opens his film with an introduction warning us of the horrifying tale we are about to witness. It is followed by a creepy visual of a corpse that is hugging a gravestone.  All as a news report tells us what the police discovered.  The sound effect that accompanies the scene is intensely creepy.

We meet a group of young friends on a road trip to check the grave of Sally Hardesty and her brother Franklin’s father, based on the reports of grave robbing.  They pick up a creepy hitchhiker who freaks everyone out.  They toss him to the side of the road and continue on their way.  Their van is low on gas, so they pull over.  Hearing a generator, they discover a farmhouse.  And that is where the mayhem kicks in.  The friends find themselves stalked and treated like animals by the Sawyer family.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most controversial of the classic 70’s horror films.  It is remembered for it bloody brutality and gore.  Which made my first viewing a surprise.  The film is raw and frightening.  But it is also not very gory.  It is, largely bloodless.  Even a scene in which a young woman is suspended on a meat hook is not nearly as gruesome in it’ visuals.  Much of what makes the Texas Chainsaw Massacre to gruesome is the viewer’s imagination.  The thought of how painful it is.  It is also interesting to realize the who “Family of Cannibals” aspect was not actually established in the film.  Certainly there are things you could see as hints, but nothing explicit.

The set design was made on a budget, but the crew puts together a weird and creepy home for the family.  It is genuinely unsettling.

Made with a cast of unknowns (for almost all the performers, this was their first film) by a second time director, Massacre is pretty remarkable for it’s near continuous intensity.  Hooper and his team (both behind and in front of the camera) do quite well on a shoestring budget.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a powerful and raw horror film that has held up for forty years, and for good reason.  The film is one that sticks with the viewer long after turning off the TV.










*Gein also inspired Robert Block’s Psycho among others.

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