[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 21 – Eaten Alive (1977)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, Marilyn Burns

Screenplay: Alvin L. Fast, Mohammed Rustam, Kim Henkel

91 mins. Rated R.

 

I remember catching a television cut of Eaten Alive almost a decade ago. I recall thinking, “Oh, it’s a movie about a guy that kills naked people and feeds them to a croc. So Texas Chainsaw with a croc.” Yes, Kyle from a decade back, exactly.

Judd (Neville Brand, Stalag17, Tora! Tora! Tora!) runs the Starlight Hotel in Texas. He caters to the lowest-common-denominator of guests. He’s also a killer. He prefers a scythe and loves to feed his victims to his crocodile. But when Harvey Wood (Mel Ferrer, Lili, War and Peace), the father of one of Judd’s victims, comes calling with his other daughter and the assistance of the local police, Judd’s backed into a corner, and he’s forced to protect himself in any way possible.

Golly, Eaten Alive is just downright bad. It really is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a croc standing in for the chainsaw. And also so much worse. The film looks cheap and dated, it hasn’t been kept up in the decades since its release, and it sloppily put together. Director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist) does nothing here with the style he is known for. This is video nasty grindhouse at its most cringeworthy.

The screenplay is very repetitive and doesn’t allow for any character development from the potential victims and/or Judd himself, who is insane for the sake of avoiding creating a compelling arc. None of the performances are much, but I do have a respect for Robert Englund’s work here. He isn’t likable nor interesting but he surely is memorable.

I want to explain the magic of this movie and how it could be good, but it just isn’t. For your time and money, stick to TCM, or better yet, check out Hooper’s amazing collaboration with John Carpenter on Body Bags. Eaten Alive is trash.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter’s Body Bags, click here.

[Extraterrestrial Abductions Day] Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Francois Truffaut

Screenplay: Steven Spielberg

137 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Cinematography
  • Academy Award Winner: Special Achievement Award for Best Sound Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Supporting Role [Melinda Dillon]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Director
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Film Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score

 

With today being Extraterrestrial Abductions Day, I wanted to look back at a Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, The BFG) film that I didn’t have much exposure to: Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I didn’t see the film until after college, and I didn’t recall liking it very much. So, today, I thought, let’s give it another try.

Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss, Jaws, Madoff), an electrical lineman in Indiana, is forever changed after he experiences a close encounter with an unidentified flying object while investigating an outage. He develops a thirst to discover exactly what he witnessed that consumes him entirely, causing rifts in his marriage to wife Ronnie (Teri Garr, Tootsie, Aloha, Scooby Doo!) and his children. Roy’s search for answers takes him across the country where he meets Lacombe (Francois Truffaut, The 400 Blows, The Green Room), a French scientist also enamored with the possible discovery of alien life.

My frustrations with Close Encounters of the Third Kind do not lie on the technical side of things. I happen to find the visuals and sound design to be superb, some of the best put to film (coincidentally, the film was released the same as the original Star Wars, which nabbed a number of technical awards at the Oscars). I enjoyed the performances from Dreyfuss and Melinda Dillon (A Christmas Story, Reign Over Me) as Jillian, a single mother who shares in Roy’s journey for answers.

My issues, though, come from Spielberg’s screenplay and how he chose to direct it. Roy does some pretty shitty things in the film, he isn’t a character I like or feel for, and yet Spielberg chooses to give the film such a light-hearted tone. It’s as if to say to his audience, “Look at this funny guy pushing his family away! My, isn’t he strange?” It just didn’t work for me. I want to feel for him and what this journey is doing to him, but I don’t.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a beautiful film, one that furthers the abilities of the artist with its progressive sound design and visual effects, but I just didn’t like the emotional arcs of the characters. An impressive technical marvel to this writer, but one without true substance.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, click here.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 7 – Suspiria (1977)

suspiria1977a

Director: Dario Argento

Cast: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bose, Alida Valli, Joan Bennett, Barbara Magnolfi, Dario Argento

Screenplay: Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi

92 mins. Rated R.

 

As you go through life, you always hear about the different films you need to see. For me, Suspiria is definitely one of those films. Everyone who knows me knows about my love of horror, and yet, famed director Dario Argento (Phenomena, Dracula 3D) always slipped by me. Until Now. This year, I decided it was time to discover Argento. So I picked his most famous film.

 

Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper, TV’s It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Minority Report) a ballet student from America, has arrived in Germany to develop her talents at the famous Tanz Dance Academy. But just as Suzy shows, another student, Pat, is fleeing for her life. Pat escapes to a friend’s home, explaining that something horrible is going on at Tanz before a mystical force preys on her. Suzy too begins to discover that there is indeed something very strange going on, and as she succumbs to fainting spells and horrific visions, it is clear that something evil is after her.

The most powerful element of Suspiria is its beauty, and I’m not just referring to its lead. This is an elegant film with stunning use of primary colors, giving the movie a unreal and nightmarish feel, like a child’s bad dream. The dreamlike quality is furthered by the childish dialogue of its main characters.

I can’t say that the visuals are the only great element at play here. There is a terrific score from progressive rock band Goblin. This is music that is often imitated but rarely equaled in a horror film.

Jessica Harper leads the cast fine, though the practice of dubbing in Italian horror back in the 70s causes a bit of difficulty in really conveying emotion throughout. She is matched by Joan Bennett (TV’s Dark Shadows, Father’s Little Dividend) and Alida Valli (The Third Man, Eyes Without a Face) as Madame Blanc and her instructor Miss Tanner, respectively.

suspiria1977b

Suspiria is well-acted, beautifully shot, and viscerally audible. The film, based on a lie by Dario’s lady-friend and co-screenwriter Daria Nicolodi, has aged very well. The first film in what Argento refers to as his “Three Mothers” Trilogy, it was followed by Inferno and The Mother of Tears, and I can’t wait to get to more from this legendary filmmaker.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

[Star Wars Day] Revenge of the Sixth…Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

starwarsepisodeivanewhope1977a

Director: George Lucas

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness

Screenplay: George Lucas

121 mins. Rated PG for sci-fi violence and brief mild language.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Costume Design
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Film Editing
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Music, Original Score
  • Special Achievement Academy Award: Ben Burtt [For sound effects (For the creation of the alien, creature and robot voices)]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor in a Supporting Role [Alec Guinness]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Director
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

iMDB Top 250: #20 (as of 1/18/2016)

As we close Star Wars Days 2015, we end on the original film in the Saga, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, from director George Lucas (American Graffiti, THX 1138).

starwarsepisodeivanewhope1977c

In A New Hope, it has been 19 years since Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Scooby-Doo!: Moon Monster Madness) was dropped off with his uncle and aunt on Tattooine. When the two droids C-3PO and R2-D2 come into his family’s possession, Luke gets swept up in R2’s mission to deliver a message from the captive Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, When Harry Met Sally…, Maps to the Stars) to the crazy hermit Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness, Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai). When Luke discovers that his father knew Kenobi long ago and is gifted his father’s lightsaber, he is set on a quest to save the princess and defeat the Empire.

The original film is still a perfect fantasy/sci-fi masterpiece with great performances, terrific direction, and a nice smooth flow. The special effects still look great (I’m referring to the original special effects, not the Special Edition effects).

Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Age of Adaline) absolutely steals the show as Han Solo, who, alongside his trusty co-captain Wookiee Chewbacca, are hired to assist Luke and Kenobi in rescuing the princess. They are aided by a believable group of performances from a talented cast of newcomers like Hamill and Fisher as well as veterans Guinness and Peter Cushing (Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein) as the villainous Grand Moff Tarkin.

This is the pinnacle of Lucas’ abilities as a filmmaker. His terrific screenplay and his inability to give up when faced with countless problems directing the picture proved him to be a truly captivating artist with a unique vision.

starwarsepisodeivanewhope1977b

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope remains a perfect film, one of the best ever put to the screen. It has become a pop cultural rock, unable to be moved from the public eye in the 38 years since its release, and I doubt it will ever truly disappear. Perfection.

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, click here.

For my review of Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, click here.

For my review of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, click here.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑