Though he dabbled in zombies, violent police flicks, gialli and a sundry of other exploitation styles, Umberto Lenzi is mostly known for his contributions to the Italian cannibal cycle. It makes sense really-he made the first one of it's type in 1972 with "The Man From Deep River", and gained further notoriety with the 1981 film "Cannibal Ferox." Another entry into this vicious sub-genre Lenzi gave the world was his 1980 film "Eaten Alive", which has no relation to Tobe Hooper's 1977 of the same name, though the latter movie is a superior product, while this is mean spirited but ultimately unsatisfying exploitation.
Sheila Morris (Janet Agren) decides to team up with an adventurer and Vietnam Vet named Mark (Pornstar and Italian cannibal veteran Robert Kerman) to try and find her sister who has gone missing in the jungles of New Guinea. What she ends up running into a religious cult led by a deranged preacher named Jonas Melvyn (Ivan Rassimov) who has located his commune in a village inhabited by cannibals. The usual shenanigans ensue.
Though featuring a cast of exploitation veterans (Kerman, Rassimov, Mel Ferer and Me Me Lai), hardly anybody in "Eaten Alive" seems to act well...alive. Okay, Kerman is fine, but everyone else seems to be performing on auto-dial, practically sleepwalking through their roles. Also, while all the usual tropes of Italian cannibal flicks-animal cruelty (always hated that), gore, rape, a racist depiction of natives as savages and cannibalism-are on display, little of this is able to gain much attention. That's largely because the direction is so choppy, even feeling a need to include stock footage for whatever reason. Plus, people used to this kind of fair have seen this before, and done better believe it or not.
To be fair, there are worst examples in this sub-genre, especially from other directors. Hell, the final attack by the cannibals is gory and surprisingly suspenseful (even though you really don't feel for any of these people), and managed to gain my interest for a good while. Oh, and being an Italian flick, there is no shock that the score (by Roberto Donati and Fiamma Magilone) is a lot of fun, and at times catchy.
So "Eaten Alive" isn't totally worthless, but whether or not it's for you depends on who the viewer is. If you like your exploitation fair with a mean edge no matter how competent or incompetent it is, then this is totally for you. Others however will find this cannibal feast to be a meal that doesn't fill them up much.