Death Trap, aka Eaten Alive, a 1977 film by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper, sees a reclusive hotel owner feed an assortment of visitors to the
plastic very real crocodile that lives in a swamp by his hotel.
Set in a sleepy American backwood which only seems to house a bar, a brothel and this hotel, a girl running away from her family is the first to come across Neville Brand’s psychotic innkeeper, which he plays superbly in a completely unhinged, murderous fashion. A family appear, and then the missing runaway’s father and sister turn up following her trail to the town, leading to various gory episodes with a scythe, bared breasts and people running around screaming. That’s basically it – the film had three writers and that was the extent of what they could manage – but the acting actually isn’t as bad as you may expect. Nightmare on Elm Street’s Robert Englund does a turn as an obnoxious young local, whilst Janus Blythe from The Hills Have Eyes also makes an appearance, but Brand really nails the lead role as a barely coherent loner.
It’s not good, but there’s a level of creepiness to it, and a slight weirdness as well which reminded me of Twin Peaks. Supposedly normal people suddenly have a bit of an episode; at one point the father who turns up with his wife and young girl once they’re in their room suddenly starts hysterically laughing and saying his wife has stubbed out her cigarette in his eye, and his wife acts as though this isn’t unusual, and the lighting around the hotel changes completely from reds to sunlight and then back to darkness in the same scene.
You know what’s going to happen in the end, so basically if you enjoy people pretending to be eaten by a crocodile, this is the film for you.