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2/19/08

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After falling so in love with Nightmare City, I immediately had to rent another Umberto Lenzi film. I figured he'd captured lightning in a bottle with Nightmare, but I had to give it another chance. Eaten Alive, isn't anywhere the same level, but it's also entertaining in the same fashion; good in a so-bad-it's-fun kind of way, bad acting, terribly inept action scenes, over-the-top gore, and obscene nudity; but instead of zombies this film focuses on cannibals.


The Italians had some sort of weird obsession with cannibal films during the late 70's, early 80's; cranking out endless films with morons entering the jungle, getting their clothes ripped off, then eaten by some blood-thirsty natives; with Cannibal Holocaust being the zenith and most famous of the bunch. It stands to reason that one of their best horror film directors would tackle the genre; which he actually did twice, directing Cannibal Ferox after this and Nightmare City. I read better things about Eaten Alive, so I tried it first, but I'm sure I'll get around to Ferox eventually.


While watching this, I wasn't sure if I'd seen it before or if another film had used some of the exact same locations, or possibly even the same footage. Because while I didn't remember this exact plot, I did remember the cave that they filmed in, with our hero climbing around trying to escape the tribe of cannibals. All these films are so similar, that they're tough to discern. Eaten Alive's is about a woman whose sister is kidnapped by a cult that has their compound deep in the jungles of New Guinea. Determined to bring her back, she hires a jungle guide to take her in to find the cult, led by an obvious Jim Jones type. (The Jonestown Massacre was two years before this film was released.)


The cult leader wants the world to go back to a simpler time, be closer to God, and once you enter his compound he won't let you leave. So the woman and her guide are forced to live the cult life, taking mind-altering drugs, and in her case painting her nude body gold, while they figure out a way to escape with her sister. Things are made tougher when the jungles they're living in are surrounded by cannibals. Eventually they escape, people are eaten, heads removed, spears chucked, helicopters hung from, native women exposed (some with obvious fake breasts no less), cult members drinking the Kool-Aid, and many animals killed. That's always been the most disturbing thing about these films for me, the fake blood and gore while people are eaten, are nothing compared to the real-life on screen killing of these jungle animals; animal torture is not my idea of entertainment, and unfortunately they're prevalent in this genre.


If you've never seen an Italian cannibal film; start with Cannibal Holocaust. If you've never seen an Umberto Lenzi film; start with Nightmare City. But if you've seen both, you will most likely enjoy Eaten Alive; it's got hilariously bad acting, especially by Robert Kerman (also known as porn-star R. Bolla) as the jungle expert he gets to perform a bunch of badly executed action scenes, tumbling about with natives and throwing spears in comical ways. There's gore a plenty, but nothing too memorable, a woman getting her breast cut off and eaten is probably the top of the heap. Eaten Alive isn't a classic, it's Velveeta compared to Nightmare City's smoked-cheddar, but for anyone that enjoys cheese, it's still edible. - Grade: C+



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