Eaten Alive! (1980)
They didn't have a chance!
Year of Release: 1980
Also Known As: The Emerald Jungle
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 87 minutes (1:27)
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Robert Kerman ... Mark Butler
Janet Agren ... Sheila Morris
Ivan Rassimov ... Jonas Melvyn
Paola Senatore ... Diana Morris
Me Me Lai ... Mowara
Fiamma Maglione ... Alma
Franco Fantasia ... Brother Reeves
Franco Coduti ... Karan
A girl risks her life and plunges into a jungle hell in search of her missing sister. Throughout her perilous journey, she must fend off hungry cannibal tribes and avoid being served up as a sacrificial lamb for a good old-fashioned suicide cult! From Umberto Lenzi, director of Cannibal Ferox, Man from Deep River and Black Demons . Features an all star, international cast of genre favorites, such as Robert Kerman (Cannibal, Holocaust, and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man), Janet Agren (Rat Man and Hands of Steel), Ivan Rassimov (Jungle Holocaust, Mario Bava's Shock), and Me Me Lai (Jungle Holocaust, Man from Deep River).
Eaten Alive has tidbits of wisdom that could only be given to us by the Italians. It's really tough to argue with anyone that may tell you the Italians have made the most repulsive, emotionally violating movies of all time. I don't think I could, or would, try to argue it, although the Japanese are becoming a legitimate contender in the modern era. So, with that said, not only do the Italians provide an opportunity to learn about things we may never so much as consider from an American horror movie, one from the cannibal sub-genre should provide an even more titillating opportunity. First, in a primitive society, if your brother happens to be married an passes away, you get to nail his wife, on the spot, right after the service. Possibly to the tune of "This is a Man's World" by James Brown. So if you happen to be located in the jungles of New Guinea an wanna nail your sister in law, simply kill your brother. On that same note, it would seem wise to marry an ugly woman, if you find yourself in that situation. Second, in Italy, butchering animals for no real reason on film = ratings. We're not talking about say, Faces of Death where they show what goes on inside a slaughter house. You can rest assured that, even though it's grisly, all those animals are going into the world's food supply. Here, killing animals is really just for the shock value. Michael Vick approves. An third, any man bold enough to carry a bible an wear a dress can easily round up enough dullards to make his own cult society.
This fount of knowledge springs forth only from movies of the Italian cannibal sub-genre, but Eaten Alive is not so niche that it lacks equally practical knowledge that's a bit more mainstream. However, you must agree that, on my final point, while other cultures have produced movies that duplicate the lesson, no other culture demonstrates the consequences quite so effectively as the Italians. An that lesson is as follows: some jobs are simply not worth any amount of money. In the movie, Robert Kerman's character is offered $80,000 to fly into a cannibal infested jungle an help some ditzy blonde retrieve her sister from a group of cultists. Now, there are a lot of other bad jobs that cannot possibly pay enough to be worthwhile, such as, but not limited to; anything in the fast food industry, Wal Mart customer service, military recruitment officer in any blue state, evolutionary biologist in any red state, and of course, White House intern. But to lead an expedition into an area with even a one percent chance that you will be killed and eaten, and not necessarily in that order? While it may look great on a resume, this really isn't something you wanna get mixed up in. Apparently the Democrats who maintain there are jobs that no Americans will do never saw this movie. So remember, if you're offered a substantial pay off for something, read the fine print. One percent is bad, Michael Moore said so.
Eaten Alive begins in of all places, Niagra Falls, Canada? A paranoid schizophrenic is shuffling around, looking over his shoulder an chewing his nails all the way down to the second knuckle when out of nowhere, a disgruntled Eskimo seal clubber pops out from behind the grassy knoll an shoots a blow dart so hard that it sticks about an inch an a half into his temple an it turns out that they really were out to get him. In New York, another paranoid is walking the bustling streets, only to end up equally darted by the same seal clubber. The seal clubber then darts still a third guy, only this time the cops see him an give chase until the guy has the bad sense to try to cross the street in NYC traffic. So after they scoop him up into a Hefty bag we cut over to the police station where a Southern Belle that looks distinctly Nordic is doing her best to maintain her southern accent while telling the cops about her missing sister. The cops give her the low down on the guy they hauled off in the Hefty bag an explain to her that, while he had no ID, he was conveniently carrying an 8mm piece of film footage in a box that had her sister's name on it. On the tape, her sister appears, watching some guys get hooks shoved through their backs in preparation for their appearance on Ripley's Believe it or Not. Based upon the scary voodoo masks that appeared in the video, a professor, who conveniently happens to be in the police station at that time, gives her a couple likely geographical suspects, an leaves what should be a police matter in the hands of the girl. The next morning, the girl (Sheila) an the professor head out to the skids to get the word on the streets about this Jonas guy who's up an flown the coop with Sheila's sister an a bunch of other simpletons. She tells 'em that Jonas is into S&M, only without the M, an that he makes 'em all hurt themselves to see if they still feel. She tells 'em where Jonas has gone an this angry black man comes up an has to smack her around a little bit for divulging private information an Sheila an the professor awkwardly slink off, leaving the simpleton to fend for herself. They really captured the reality of people in NYC during that scene, magnifico, Umberto. Magnifico.
So Sheila hops on a plane to New Guinea an stops in at the local arm wrestling competitions, only in New Guinea the stakes are a little higher. Seems there are blades sticking up through the bottom of the tables an the winner is the guy that doesn't end up needing 36 stitches to close the wound. Sheila bribes the winner to take her to the village that he believes her sister may be, only when they get there nobody's around except a looney old coot that starts firing on 'em on account of them being white an standing out like a rabbi at a pork roast. The old coot locks 'em up for safe keepin' an the Sheila opens up a basket with a live cobra inside trying to nap. So the guy (Mark) yanks the lid away from her an smashes the lid down on top of the basket an squishes the cobra into strawberry fluoride an tells Sheila to pull her head out of her ass. Later that day, the old coot goes to check on Mark an Sheila an sees the lid off the cobra basket, only there's no cobra anywhere in sight. Thinking that this situation cleaned itself up pretty nicely, he heads over to the basket, when Mark grabs his gun an puts his boot into the coot's arthritic knee joint an he crashes harder than the U.S. dollar. After a few well placed punches the old coot tells 'em that Sheila's sister is alive at Jonas' place, so Mark makes him an offer he can't refuse an within minutes they're in a canoe, with guides, headed for Jonas' tabernacle. En route, on the riverbank, a small monkey heroically sacrifices his life to an anaconda for the betterment of cinema, I guess, shortly after which a plastic gator (normally I wouldn't specify) thrusts itself up out of the water an latches onto one of the guide's arms an drags him down below for the chewing an swallowing. Then, after a brief nap, Mark an Sheila wake to find that their remaining guide has made off with their supplies. Yeesh. If you can't trust a guy coerced into being your guide into cannibal infested jungles, who can you trust? They find him dead not far off with his intestines a lot less inside his abdomen than they remember. Elsewhere, two young natives are sitting quietly chatting, when another group of natives show up an run the boy off an commit unlawful sexual penetration on the girl native. It must have been the quiet, minding her own business, not causing any trouble, that she was engaged in at the time, cannibals in Italian movies HATE that.
Apparently, the native rapist doesn't have much stamina, or realized that he wasn't so much horny as hungry, because within about five seconds the entire group is eating the choice cuts off her an when Sheila an Mark show up he has to cover her mouth before she can scream an give away their location to every cannibal within ten miles. Far enough away to go unheard, Sheila tells Mark that if it comes down to getting raped and/or eaten, in either order, she wants him to kill her, but Mark flies off the handle at her pessimistic attitude an has to belt her one across the chops so she'll quit talkin' like that. Then, because she's apparently into abusive guys, she gets a massive wide-on an tells Mark that she'd like to do the horizontal squat thrust because it might be the last chance they get. Which you'd think would be equally defeatist and enraging, but apparently isn't, an he obliges. Early the next morning they're up an heading for Jonas' house of pain when they're besieged by more natives an they have to run like a woman that mistook a Catholic church for an abortion clinic. Unfortunately, stupid white people in the jungle are no match for the well conditioned natives that live or die by killing food with spears, and are easily overtaken. But fortunately, these are Jonas' guys, an instead of eating them on the spot, they take them to Jonasburg, where they're given the grand tour. They learn that they defend themselves against their cannibal neighbors by milking cobras and dipping darts into the venom an shooting anyone that tries to bite 'em. They've also arrived just in time to watch a funeral ritual for one of the natives, which entails all the women with nice racks standing around nekkid, an the widow of the man lighting his funeral pyre to the theme of Phantom of the Opera. Once the fire goes out, the deceased man's brothers are supposed to free her from her attachment to her former husband by forming a line and plowing her. I wonder how they decide who goes first... oh well, not important. Jonas finally takes Sheila to see her sister, who pretends to go along with the program but has secretly grown tired of living without deodorant an toothpaste an wants to get back to civilization before her braless lifestyle ruins her figure forever.
Back in New York, the cops have apparently been watching the same movie we have and are finally starting to put the pieces together. Meanwhile, in Jonasburg, Jonas is trying to get his newest sheep to drink the Kool Aid, but Mark knows better than that an when he tries to stop Sheila they tie him up. Jonas explains to everyone that if the cannibals ever get tired of raping each other an organize an attack, he's got a mass suicide plan in place so that no one has to get speared to death. (If only they had some kind of potent venom to defend themselves with) Just the same, some of Jonas' goons haul a cannibal in an confuse machetes for sticks an his head for a pinata. Later, after the drugged liquid has kicked in, Jonas' flunkies bring Sheila into his room an he cuts open a cobra so it can bleed all over a makeshift dildo an he ramrods her with it so she can be purified through pain. I guess dying for everyone else's sins doesn't appeal to him. Outside, the last remaining sane member of Jonas' crew releases Mark an he runs away like he impregnated Jerry Falwell's daughter. During his escape he encounters a group of cannibals an watches as they try to perfect their circumcision ritual, but the Mohel takes a little too much off the top if you catch my drift an they decide to just spear him an eat 'em. Mark tries to sneak off but they catch the scent of his Stetson cologne an he has to shimmy up a tree an hope that none of them make the connection between the disappearing trail an the tree he's sitting in. Fortunately they don't, an Mark says screw this cannibal nonsense an goes back to Jonasburg, because converting your religion is slightly less painful than converting to death. So upon his return, Mark repents an promises to be the best cultist he can be an secretly works out an escape plan with the help of Sheila's sister an the widowed native girl, only Sheila kept drinking the Kool Aid against Mark's instructions an now she's 130lbs of dead weight in a jungle crawling with people that like to cut off your titties an eat 'em while you watch. Naturally, when Jonas realizes they've not only gone but that they've hijacked the community canoe, he's super pissed, an sends his flock of sheep to retrieve his property an we're ready for the big show down between the cultists, the cannibals, an our hapless heroes.
Eaten Alive was released around the time the cannibal sub-genre began losing it's steam, and is not as famous as the big two of the sub-genre, those being Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox. These movies, and indeed this sub-genre of movies are possibly the most railed against and controversial movies ever made. The graphic violence (I'm not entirely inclined to call it misogynistic, considering the cannibals victimize both genders, although, I probably wouldn't argue with anyone that does, given how much rape of women is generally involved) against not just people, but the animals in particular, is where most of the outrage comes from. The violence against people is staged, after all, where the animals are being killed for no reason other than shock value. It's not impossible that in certain cases, this is simply how the native population of whatever country they're filming in, goes about killing them as a food source, and that the animals didn't go to waste. While I don't particularly want to see it, I don't find much at all wrong with that, if these are animals being killed for human consumption. Because this happens every day, in every country. We're just not used to seeing it. That said, the majority of the scenes do not resemble that description. In this movie alone, you've got the mongoose vs. cobra sequence, where the mongoose is clearly on a leash of sorts. There's also the monkey versus anaconda sequence that keeps the camera on the monkey for a good ten seconds while it's being slowly killed. This sort of thing is not only screwed up, it's also lazy film making. It's a quick and easy way to generate shock value. But that's the only value it ads, and even for people who enjoy the horror genre, overall, it's not value added, it's just horrible. Sadder still, most of the animal butchery in this particular movie wasn't even shot during it's filming, it was inserted from Sacrifice and Mountain of the Cannibal God. They felt it so necessary that they used the exact same scenes from other movies. I guess you could at least say it's better than killing more animals to make new scenes, but it says something about a perceived sense of necessity surrounding those types of sequences. It would be forgivable if, and only if, they showed animals being killed, by people, and then those same people consuming them. Anything else is just bullshit.
Overall, the only way I can rate these movies in good conscience is the same way I'd rate a movie like I Spit on Your Grave, because about one third of the movie is just not enjoyable to watch, due to the content. So I rate these types of unpleasant movies upon their production values, which Eaten Alive actually has in many areas. The acting is pretty decent, and by using American actors or at least actors that could speak English, there's only a couple characters that are dubbed throughout the movie. The lack of need for dubbing, or minimal dubbing, in a European horror movie is somewhat of a rarity, an scores big points from me. The shooting locations were great, even though it's not in New Guinea as in the story. This we know from the animals not native to New Guinea. The soundtrack is vintage 1980s Italian horror, you know what to expect going in an there's little surprise about it. You either like it or you don't. I don't, quite honestly. The plot is probably where the movie shines the most, in that, it has one. One that looks to be based at least partially on fact. Not with the cannibalism of course, but the cult angle, based upon Reverend James Warren Jones' cult who committed mass suicide in Guyana in 1978. (Jonas, Jones, see what they did there?) Which is why I wasn't making Applewhite jokes during the plot summary. Pretty interesting, that. Before 9/11, it was the largest non natural disaster related death toll recorded in history, of American citizens. So big points for the plot. Big loss of them for the aforementioned animal butchery on tape, but even more lost on account of most of it being stock footage from previously released cannibal movies. Even Me Me Lai's death sequence was taken from Last Cannibal World, which just goes to show how similar these cannibal films are to each other. I didn't even notice much difference in the appearance of the cannibals, or of her clothing, such little clothing as the movie contains anyway. Speaking of which, points awarded for all the exceptional topless ladies. The nekkidness in this movie is what you always wanted to see as a kid when you opened up a National Geographic, but never did. I attribute this to the civilized world's invention of the brassiere. The special effects were pretty good up until the climax where they cracked open the rib cage, which was decidedly not good. So it's a bit of a mixed bag, recommended only to fans of the cannibal sub-genre, an sick fucks that enjoy watching animals die. I hope you're put on the government watch list sooner, rather than later.