Clara (Roberta Collins) is now regretting ever offering her sevices as a prostitute to the brothel keeper Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones) now that Buck (Robert Englund) has entered the room, told her to get on her hands and knees and informed her he is about to do something she definitely does not want to happen. He is determined, but after a struggle Miss Hattie barges in to see what the fuss is about and orders Clara away, sending her downstairs and right out of the door. The maid takes pity on her and offers her a bit of cash, enough to put her up for the night, but Clara makes the mistake of checking into the Starlight Hotel...
Eaten Alive was known by many titles, probably too many, including Death Trap and the imaginative Horror Hotel, but it's by that original title that most recognise it today. It was important as Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel's follow up to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a huge success for them that they never really capitalised on, not least because Hooper was in conflict with his producers while making this. It was not a sequel, but did set its sights on the same atmosphere of senseless violence as the predecessor, and for some it very nearly achieved it. Yet there's a slapdash feeling to the film which coupled with a resolutely setbound appearance means it's claustrophobic but not in a helpful way.
There are no exterior shots whatsoever in this, offering some scenes the air of a filmed play with its obvious prop alligator (or is it a crocodile?) doing the planned thrills no favours. That huge reptile is the creature which eats the characters alive as the title indicates, so there is no cannibalism here, although you do get Neville Brand as wooden-legged hotel owner Judd (he lost a limb to the croc, we surmise) charging around waving a scythe in a Leatherface style. His first victim, the one we see at any rate, is poor Clara, who when Judd realises where she has come from thinks nothing of attacking her and feeding her body into the animal in the swamp at the side of the building.
But Clara's death will not go unavenged, as her father, Harvey Wood (Mel Ferrer, adding to the selection of hasbeens appearing) shows up with his daughter Libby (Crystin Sinclaire) in tow trying to track down his runaway offspring. Naturally they check in at the hotel, unaware that there has been not one murder there recently, but two as a family had arrived a few hours before, headed by an extremely bizarre William Finley. His weird behaviour could be down to the fact that his daughter Angie (Kyle Richards) has just seen her pet dog swallowed by the crocodile, but he seems to have a history of some sort that it transpires is utterly unimportant to the rest of the plot. For Texas Chain Saw fans, though, his wife should seem familiar.
She is Faye (Marilyn Burns), continuing her trend of being much abused in Tobe Hooper movies when Judd bumps off her husband and ties her to the bed where she spends just about the rest of the running time struggling and trying to make herself heard through her gag. The little girl, meanwhile, ends up hiding under the hotel as Judd attempts futilely to entice her out. There could have been a seam of pitch black comedy to be mined in Eaten Alive, but outwith the murder sequences there's a curiously shapeless quality to the film, leaving Brand to too often command the screen by wandering around and muttering to himself, as if they didn't have enough story and were reduced to padding out what they did have. It could be that Hooper's original vision for this would have been far tighter, but novelty value with this cast and these filmmakers is about the best it has going for it. Music by Hooper and Wayne Bell.