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R.I.P.: Tobe Hooper has passed away at 74

Tobe Hooper

Just one month after George A. Romero passed away, the horror genre has lost another of its masters and fans have lost another hero. The Los Angeles County Coroner has announced that Tobe Hooper passed away yesterday in Sherman Oaks, California at the age of 74.

This is a tough one for me, because Romero and Hooper are responsible for several of my favorite horror movies. I always find it hard to choose what my top favorite is -  George A. Romero's original DEAD trilogy is high in the running, as are Hooper's classic THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and its goofball sequel THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. I can't say what #1 is, but if I can't make it easier by calling things a tie, the DEAD trilogy and Hooper's two CHAINSAWs definitely make up my top five.

Hooper was born in Austin, Texas on January 25, 1943. After making his feature directorial debut with the experimental EGGSHELLS in 1969, Hooper embarked on making a low budget horror film in 1973. Shot on an initial budget of $60,000 (the cost went up during post) with local actors in the sweltering summer heat, Hooper's second film THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE went on to become one of the most highly regarded genre films in history. What Hooper and his cast and crew accomplished with that film is absolutely incredible - the heights of madness it reaches are unmatched, and it's made all the more effective by the grain of the 16mm film it was shot on. It's often said that CHAINSAW was shot "documentary style", but while Hooper did work as a documentary cameraman, he and cinematographer Daniel Pearl brought a very impressive cinematic style to the film, filling it with some great shots. Most memorable, of course, is the dolly shot that goes under a swing to follow a character as she approaches the house inhabited by the chainsaw-wielding killer Leatherface (a new genre icon Hooper gifted us with), the house growing larger and larger in the frame the closer she gets to it.

Although the producers had some trouble with the original distributor, even having to take them to court over the box office profits, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was a massive hit, becoming the 12th highest grossing film of 1974 and earning more than $30 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Having broken through in a big way, Hooper followed CHAINSAW with a career packed with horror and sci-fi projects. His directorial efforts included the CHAINSAW-esque EATEN ALIVE, the Stephen King mini-series SALEM'S LOT, the underrated slasher THE FUNHOUSE, the naked space vampire film LIFEFORCE, the remake of INVADERS FROM MARS, the pilot episode of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET spin-off TV series Freddy's Nightmares, an episode of Tales from the Crypt, two installments of the Masters of Horror series, the remake of THE TOOLBOX MURDERS, and many more.

Aside from CHAINSAW, Hooper's most popular film is the awesome 1982 supernatural film POLTERGEIST... although there is a lot of controversy over whether he directed the bulk of the film or if it was writer/producer Steven Spielberg who was really calling the shots.

In 1986, Hooper made a sequel to CHAINSAW that went full-on black comedy with the concept and wasn't as well received, but has gone to be seen as a classic in its own right. I have loved THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 ever since I first saw it, and it's one of the films I can get the most geek-out giddy over.

Hooper's final film was DJINN, which played at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in 2013 but has yet to be given a proper international release.

The details of Hooper's death have not yet been revealed. He is survived by two sons and a huge number of fans who will continue to celebrate his cinematic achievements.

Extra Tidbit: Our condolences go out to Tobe Hooper's family, friends, and fans.
Source: Variety

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