Remembering Tobe Hooper, A True Master of Horror
Tobe Hooper, a true legend of the horror genre, passed away on Saturday, August 26th, 2017 at age 74. He was best known for the revolutionary slasher flick The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the often imitated but never duplicated supernatural classic, Poltergeist.
Hooper was born in Texas in 1943. He developed an interest in film at a young age and later worked as a college professor and documentary cameraman. In 1974, inspired by both the violence he witnessed as a cameraman and the gruesome exploits of murderer Ed Gein, Hooper released his first horror film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was almost immediately considered one of the most terrifying films ever made thanks to its gritty, documentary-style realism.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre debut on movies screens while the world’s first televised war raged in Vietnam. The news coverage on the war was far more shocking than any horror movie at the time. Hooper was one of the first filmmakers to ignore the tradition of restrained horror in favor of violence and brutality that echoed what audiences were seeing daily on television. The result was a jolt to the system for moviegoers. It was banned in several countries and spawned over half a dozen sequels and remakes. Even today, the original has lost none of its potency.
Hooper would later go on to direct the television mini series adaption of Stephen King’s vampire epic, Salem’s Lot, which became a source of nightmare fuel for an entire generation of viewers. It’s remembered most for the scene were a young boy is floating outside his brother’s second story window, scratching at the pane with claw-like nails.
In 1981, Hooper was handpicked by Steven Spielberg to direct Poltergeist. A true 80s film in every sense of the word, it told the story of a family besieged by supernatural forces. It was a blockbuster hit and spawned a wave of imitators, including James Wan’s recent critical success, Insidious. Even though recent rumors suggest that Spielberg may have directed the film instead of Hooper, Hooper’s influence will always be felt in Poltergeist’s darker, more gruesome scenes.
Throughout the rest of his career, Hooper continued dabbling in the horror genre. He directed a sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and another Stephen King adaption with the campy, folding-laundry machine slasher, The Mangler. His work in television also continued with contributions to Tales from the Crypt, Night Visions and two memorable episodes of Masters of Horror.
Despite only having directed a handful of films, Tobe Hooper’s influence on the horror genre as a whole is impossible to ignore. He helped sow the seeds for the slasher craze, stretched the limits of cinematic violence and most importantly, inspired generation after generation of filmmakers and writers. These artists will always carry a part of Hooper with them as they continue to produce new works of horror fiction. He will be sorely missed, but his films will be remembered for years to come.
BRENDAN VIDITO is a novelist and short story writer from Northern Ontario. His stories have appeared in Splatterpunk Zine, Infernal Ink Magazine, Dark Moon Digest, and the recent anthology Splatterpunk’s Not Dead and the upcoming Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath by CLASH Books. You can visit him at brendanvidito.wordpress.com.