Tobe Hooper In Memoriam
It’s been a rough few years, this one especially, for us horror fans as the directors, actors, producers etc we’ve grown up with are starting to pass away. Every single time it’s a devastating loss. Personally for me, losing Wes Craven in 2015 left a scar that won’t go away.
Today we lost another great – another game changer – another person who has paved the way for us horror fans, and for those of us who create in the horror genre. Sadly, I am talking about Tobe Hooper.
He passed away Saturday in Sherman Oaks, California at the age of 74, it is being reported as a natural death. Born in 1943 in Austin, Texas, Hooper started making films at 9 years old and continued his education into the University of Texas, taking film classes. In the 60’s he worked as a college professor and documentary cameraman. In 1965 he created a short film called The Heisters which was invited to be entered for the Oscars but alas he did not complete it in time.
Hooper is probably best known for, of course, helming The Texas Chain Saw Massacre which was released in 1974 and became one of the most influential horror films of all time. The final shot of the film where Leatherface wields his chainsaw at the camera is one of the BEST shots in a horror movie ever. Shot for less than $300K, the film follows a group of friends on a road trip who encounter a terrifying family of cannibals. It went on to be banned in several countries but remained one of the most profitable independent films of the 70’s. The original trailer still remains one of my personal favorite trailers of all time. And that horrifying sound of the chainsaw still brings goosebumps to my arms. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was ICONIC and the stories about how it was filmed, and the fear it left in its’ viewers hearts will last forever.
In 1986 Hooper also directed the sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 which is just as great but in a completely different way.
In 1982 Hooper directed Poltergeist which is another horror classic that a lot of directors and films take influence from. So many incredible scenes that people remember forever. Poltergeist is, of course, the tale of a family that move into a new house haunted by a terrifying poltergeist. Following Poltergeist came Lifeforce and Invaders from Mars, which was a remake.
Horror fans will also be very familiar with his 1979 adaptation of Salem’s Lot, based on the incredible vampire novel by Stephen King. It was originally released as a two part miniseries for CBC and later reedited and released as a film. He also directed the music video for Billy Idol’s iconic song, Dancing with Myself.
Hooper’s more recent works include Toolbox Murders and two episodes of Masters of Horror. And in 2011 he co-wrote a horror novel called Midnight Movie where he appeared as the main character.
Horror directors like Eli Roth and Rob Zombie took to social media in waves today to share their respects for Hooper and speak of how he inspired them.
Hooper was incredible. He would frame shots that felt like they came right out of a Hitchcock film and created a sense of dread. Those who have not see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre will tell you it’s filled with gore and violence, but those that have seen the film will know it of course barely shows any blood. But that was the beauty of Hooper – he could wield a camera and frame a shot that made you aware of the violence going on just outside the screen, without ever showing too much.
Our thoughts go out to Hooper’s family and friends during this horrible time. And as fans it is more important than ever to remember our idols, keep them in our hearts, and let their incredible hard work that paved our way never be forgotten.
WHO WILL SURVIVE, AND WHAT WILL BE LEFT OF THEM? R I P TOBE HOOPER
Mr. Hooper has been an inspiring force in my life since he changed it with T. C. M. I was a sophomore in high school, and had been an obsessed, dedicated genre freak since I was six. I remember seeing it ( the first of many times ) on the local drive in screen as the bottom half of a double bill.
While the entire film held me captive with a merciless, inescapable sense of doom, two sequences especially ‘got’ me.
The first was the way Mr. Hooper shot and edited the long chase scene of our final girl,, especially giving the viewer wide, distanced shots making us completely aware of how close Leatherface was to her.Chase scenes can help energize or deflate a film- this took my breath
My favorite then and now ( one of my favorite murder scenes ever. It’s one of the best ever put on screen and I judge others against it ) was the full sequence and utterly realistic death of poor, handsome Curt.
By taking away the masculine, shirtless ( showing the character as both strong and in a sense, vulnerable.- taking audience assurance of security away –brilliant ) dude who we thought was possibly our ‘ final boy’, running down the hall, tripping and falling into the Evil itself, giving him no chance to try and fight back, shining a light on the vulnerability of the situation
the crunch of his skull as the massive hammer connected with his head. The image that really affected me the most was, rather than simply allow a bloody corpse fall to the floor, Hooper cut to Curt laying on the metal ramp ( that he had just tripped on )leading into a trophy/ slaughterhouse room from which this huge Evil had first appeared. Curt’s probably just about dead, but mindlessly twitching his arms and legs in a very loud spasmatic way, causing the Evil to strike another death blow. He then picks Curt up under his armpits seeming to be as light and useless as if he’s a sack of dirt and slams ( and I mean S L A M S ) the metal sliding door to the room leaving us with a silent terror filmed moment where I thought “did I really just see that?
Mr Hooper.’s choice to mainly allow terrific sounds to TELL US what was happening ( the false pig squeal that lures him into the house, running down the hall tripping and falling on metal as the huge sliding metal door opens, the sickening hammer contacts to Curt’s head ( needing no practical- blood spurting everywhere ) the ‘death throws of Curt’s involuntary spasms on the metal ramp, and that final SWEENEY TODD – like slam punctuating the scene.
THAT ladies and gentlemen is Horror film storytelling at it’s most brutal and efficient…..I. J. S.
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