One of the greatest and most influential horror filmmakers has passed into the great beyond. Tobe Hooper, the director of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist, has died at the age of 74.
Tobe Hooper was a native of Austin, Texas who taught college and directed the “hippie” movie Eggshells and the documentary The Song is Love – about the popular band Peter, Paul and Mary – before changing the horror landscape with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974. Inspired by the serial killer Ed Gein, it told the story of a group of young people who run afoul of a family of cannibals. Made on a shoestring budget, the independent feature distinctive, realistic aesthetic and impressive ability to imply more graphic violence than what is actually visible on camera inspired a series of imitators who persist to this day.
His career after The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was mostly filled with odd motion pictures that inspire cult-like fervor in some horror lovers while turning others off completely. (He also directed the post-apocalyptic kink music video for Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself”.) But Hooper was able to produce two more universally beloved horror classics in the years that followed: the TV mini-series Salem’s Lost, based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King, and the Steven Spielberg-produced and PG-rated Poltergeist, which brought haunted houses into suburbia and was so unbelievably scary that it forced the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to invent a whole new rating, the now-ubiquitous PG-13.
For the last few decades of his career, Tobe Hooper struggled to find quality projects, and directed many films which are unlikely to be remembered fondly in decades to come, like the unfortunate Stephen King adaptation The Mangler (about a killer laundry machine) and the 2004 remake of The Toolbox Murders.
Despite some stumbles, Tobe Hooper’s legacy as a bona fide “Master of Horror” is secure. His finest films are among the best in the whole genre, and his weirdest films are the stuff fever dreams are made of. With The Texas Chain Saw Massacre he inspired a new legion of independent horror filmmakers to stretch the boundaries of the medium, and break their way onto the forefront of the art form with their unbridled talent, enthusiasm, and sheer force of will.
Tobe Hooper leaves behind a history of classic and memorable horror. We leave you with a look back at the eight Tobe Hooper films (okay, technically one of them’s a mini-series) and the one fantastic TV episode that we’ll never forget.
8 Films (and One TV Episode) That Made Tobe Hooper a Master of Horror:
Top Photos: Albert L. Ortega/WireImage & Bryanston Pictures
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on Canceled Too Soon and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.