Eaten Alive! (Mangiati Vivi!) (1980)
Another gruesome entry into the cannibal movie genre, “Eaten Alive!” does some things right, but too many wrong.
Italian horror films often make up some of the better classic gorefests, both for their cheesy stories, special effects, and their propensity for poorly dubbing into English.
You get all three here, with copious gore and nudity (often both at the same time), but, like the more high-profile (and thematically similar) “Cannibal Holocaust,” some unfortunate footage of real animal killings.
Let’s be clear about something: there’s a difference between killing animals for food, or observing nature, and in human beings sadistically torturing and killing animals. “Eaten Alive” features the latter, where an alligator is cut open repeatedly, and we see it squirming as it’s being eviscerated. It’s disturbing and crass, even moreso when you consider it’s done for no good reason (not that “thematic accuracy” even begins to constitute a good excuse).
Reportedly this footage was recycled from another film, but the end effect is no less quease-inducing. We also get scenes of animals fighting, including one sequence where a mongoose and a cobra are visibly forced into fighting for the camera.
The rest of the film is pure drive-in schlock, with a tale about a cult that relocates to South America, Jim Jones-style, living in the jungle with cannibal tribes teeming in the surrounding area.
A woman (Janet Agren) whose sister (Paola Senatore) has gone missing ventures into the jungles to find her, hiring a Vietnam deserter (Robert Kerman) as a guide.
They end up in the protective custody of Mr. Jonas (it even sounds like Jones), a charismatic but strange man who, as it turns out, is employing mind control over his followers to the point of administering a strange mood-altering substance.
When our heroes want to leave, Mr. Jonas forbids them, they go anyway, and run right into the path of hungry cannibals. Death and destruction ensues.
The effects work here isn’t as convincing as “Holocaust,” but there is more of it, and it’s still rather effective for the time. Director Umberto Lenzi (who also directed the more well-known “Cannibal Ferox”) tries but isn’t able to match the infamous castration scene in “Holocaust,” though, as you might imagine it’s still pretty unsettling.
There’s plenty of actual cannbalism in this film, including one sequence where two women are literally eaten alive.
We also get various sexual rituals, including Agren being covered in gold paint ala “Goldfinger.”
The story is, while told in a herky-jerky fashion, at least somewhat cohesive and comes to a resolution, even if the ending turns a cannibalism shocker into an action film.
But also be sure to watch for the jarring, oh-too-obvious perspective errors, including the repeated use of time errors. At several points we get day/night shifts, as characters will approach each other at night, then walk outside and suddenly it’s daytime.
Gorehounds couldn’t ask for more with this envelope-pushing film, but crossing the line into real sadism shouldn’t really be on the menu.