Every Saturday we are going to look back at classic or not so classic B-Movies, because let’s face it, what night is better to watch a B-Movie than a Saturday right? To start us off we are going to look at Umberto Lenzi’s Eaten Alive! (or Mangiati Vivi! Doomed to Die or The Emerald Jungle.) This one is an experience team, I will not lie to you.
For those who do not know Umberto Lenzi was an Italian director who began focusing on Giallo films due to Argento’s success, much like a large majority of Italian filmmakers at the time. This then evolved into the widely infamous Italian cannibal genre which spawned Man from the Deep River, Cannibal Ferox and lucky for us Eaten Alive!.
Shelia (Janet Agren) has been looking for her missing sister (Paola Senatore) and has finally discovered that she has disappeared into the South Pacific region to join a religious cult ran by the charismatic, but disturbed Rev. Jonas (Ivan Rassimov) yes they really didn’t want to steer too far away from Rev Jones and make you think if these cults were similar. Shelia hires Vietnam veteran and jungle guide Mark (Robert Kerman) to help her get her sister back.
Let’s cut straight to the chase, Eaten Alive! Is a terrible film, no matter how novel the story is itself for including the cult aspect the rest of the film falls apart. The acting is as you would expect from a cannibal film, basically just a spot above porn acting if we are honest (apologies to those actors). But damn it if it isn’t stupidly entertaining. You could easily have a drinking game with these films and I would not be surprised if people mute the film and make up their own dialogue. Without a doubt, it would be better than what was given to the actors to speak.
Possibly the most original aspects of the film are the introduction to the tad too on the nose cult that was inspired by the Jonestown cult and massacre. It would not be like the horror of this type to take advantage of such a tragedy. Of course, this cult goes way beyond anything ever recorded in Jonestown, rituals, beheadings etc. That is just that classic Giallo touch coming in I guess.
I assume that to make sure they did not offend too many people regarding their version of Jonestown they added in the rituals, such as a recently widowed woman having to have sex with all three of her deceased husband’s brothers… On his ashes. I will repeat that sentence, they allow her to get gang-raped in front of everyone on her husband’s ashes. Not a single clue on what Lenzi was thinking. We also get the casual rape of our heroine with a snakes blood-covered dildo. You know the fun parts of a cult.
The scenes at the cult are without a doubt disturbing and could and should have been contained in its own separate film as there is a lot of content and traction in where they could have gone with it. In fact, if you just read most synopsises regarding the film next to none actually mention the cannibals. Speaking of which…
No harm to the cannibals in this movie, but it does really feel that they were tacked on at the end to give some extra horror to the film. I would almost believe that they made the film entirely about the cult, it wasn’t deemed marketable enough because funnily enough trying to profit off a massacre sometimes is not successful. The cannibals are briefly mentioned and we see a quick scene of some cannibals having a munch on a poor islander. Then a scene where a poor cannibal has his genitals eaten for being disrespectful to the elder or leader of the group. We learn nothing about these people. Usually, in these types of films, we learn a bit more about them and their customs. Here, we are to be shocked and hope our heroes can get away from them in time. Some do, most don’t.
Where the inclusion of a cult where everyone is given juice to drink before being “captured” is tough to swallow. The inclusion of (and to be fair all Italian cannibal films did this during the decade these films where getting made) animal murders is probably the toughest to stomach. Did we really need to see the continual look backs into the murder of that crocodile or the murder of the monkey from the snake? It all seems so pointless and nauseating in the worst way. It isn’t and never was needing to help the film. One can only assume this was done for the shock factor, but it is happily something that we would not see today.
This is still an aspect to these films that I will never understand what were they gaining from every single one of them having animals being slaughtered and in the way they are slaughtered. It makes little sense personally. But, if anyone has watched one of these movies and an animal murder is not in the film then let me know! It would be good to see one that decided that it did not require it.
In the end, we are left with a gruesome film that one would expect from a filmmaker such as Lenzi during this period. When the film could have gone the interesting route and focused on the cult, hell even have the cult sacrifice people to the cannibals to appease them for using their land, if they wanted to include them. Alas, we have a film that exploits everyone possible. Again that was something merely indicative of the time, but for fans of the genre it is a must-watch if they have missed
Just a final note, like all of these films, DO NOT watch the trailer as it will literally spoil every little second of the film for you.