Variety reported that the iconic Hollywood director of horror films, Tobe Hooper passed away on August 26, 2017. What caused the demise of this 74-year-old director is not known at present. Born on January 25, 1943, to Austin, Texas based movie theatre owners Lois and Norman, he was born in Hollywood. He first picked up his father’s camera at the age of 9 and expressed his desire to be a filmmaker. Apart from studying at the University of Texas at Austin, he also attended acting classes in Dallas.
During 1960s Hooper worked as a cameraman for documentaries besides working as a college professor. His 1965 short film The Heisters had an opportunity to get submitted for the Academy Awards, but, he couldn’t manage to do so within the timeline. His first major film was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre which he made independently with the support of several students and faculty. The film was a success, and it changed the horror movie landscape permanently.
At the time of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the horror movies genre was witnessing a transition and slasher films were gaining prominence. The character of Leatherface, the main villain of the film, was loosely based on a real life murderer Ed Gein. In fact, Ed Gein also inspired the characters of Norman Bates in the film Psycho and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. The story was about a group of friends who got attacked by a family of cannibals during a road trip. While the film was marketed as a true story, it had a fictional plot. It cost less than 300,000 dollars to produce, but, it replete with such gory violence that many countries banned it, and even some theatres in the US pulled it down. This film brought to fore the slasher genre and till date influences many horror movies.
Hooper again regrouped his team bringing back several people from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and made Eaten Alive aka Death Trap in 1977. This film was rated ‘video nasty’ in England, and there were claims that it violated the Obscene Publications Act 1959. England saw its first VHS release in 1992 with a 25 seconds cut. Later it released in full on DVD in 2000.
This was followed by a TV miniseries called Salem’s Lot, which was based on the second novel by Stephen King. This was a two part Vampire story which got glowing reviews from the critics, and a few years later Hooper made another adaptation of King’s novel – The Mangler. The success of Salem’s Lot gave Hooper the opportunity to direct Poltergeist, written and produced by none other than Stephen Spielberg. It turned out to be among the biggest blockbusters of 1982 and is now rated as a horror classic. Poltergeist had a couple of sequels and also was remade once.
Hooper further made a funny sequel of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and also made two sci-fi horror films one of which was titled Lifeforce and the other was a remake of Invaders from Mars. He did a lot of work for television as well. He directed episodes of Amazing Stories, Tales from the Crypt and also Masters of Horror. The last film made by Hooper was Djinn, released in 2013. He has left behind two sons, and he will forever be associated with the creation of an altogether new horror generation. No wonder, horror fans will miss him a lot.
MAY YOU REST IN PEACE TOBE HOOPER: JANUARY 25, 1943 – AUGUST 26, 2017