Legendary horror director Tobe Hooper passed away on August 26, 2017, according to Variety. His cause of death is unknown at this time. Hooper was 74 years old. Born in Austin, Texas on January 25, 1943 to movie theater owners Lois and Norman, Hooper was exposed to films his entire life. At the age of 9, he began playing with his father’s 8mm camera and realized his interest in filmmaking. He studied at the University of Texas at Austin, and took acting classes in Dallas as well.
In the 1960s, Hooper worked as a college professor and was a cameraman for several documentaries. In 1965 he made a short film called The Heisters which was invited for submission to the Academy Awards but not finished in time to make the deadline. In 1974 he gathered a number of students and faculty and made an independent film. That film was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and it changed the horror genre forever.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was made during a transitional time in the world of horror, when slasher films were being invented. The main villain – Leatherface – was very loosely based on Ed Gein – the real life killer who Norman Bates from Psycho and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs were also based on. The film told the story of a group of friends who find themselves targeted by a family of sadistic cannibals while on a road trip. The movie was marketed as based on a true story, even though the plot is fictional. Made for under $300,000 the film’s realistic violence and brutality got it banned in several countries and pulled from some theaters in America. It helped create the slasher genre and remains an influence on horror today.
Hooper re-teamed with several of the people who worked on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to make Eaten Alive aka Death Trap in 1977. The gory film was among the first to be classified as a ‘video nasty’ in England, where is was accused of violating the Obscene Publications Act 1959. The movie was not released on VHS in England until 1992, and then with 25 seconds cut out. It got a full release on DVD in 2000.
Hooper followed with the TV miniseries Salem’s Lot, based on Stephen King’s second published novel. The two part vampire story was given positive reviews, and Hooper would work on another Stephen King adaption years later – The Mangler. Salem’s Lot was followed with Poltergeist, which was written and produced by Stephen Spielberg. Poltergeist was one of the most successful films of 1982 and it considered a horror classic today. It spawned two sequels and a remake.
Hooper then made a couple of sci-fi horror films, Lifeforce and a remake of Invaders from Mars, as well as a comedic sequel to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He also worked a lot in television, directing episodes of Amazing Stories, Tales from the Crypt, and Masters of Horror. His final film was the 2013 horror movie Djinn.
Hooper is survived by two sons and a legacy in the horror genre that he helped create. He will be missed.
Rest in Peace Tobe Hooper: January 25, 1943 – August 26, 2017
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