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Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper dies at 74

Tobe Hooper – director of iconic horror films THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and POLTERGEIST – passed away yesterday at the age of 74, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner. The circumstances of his death are currently unknown.

Spending most of the 60s as a college professor and working on documentaries, William Tobe Hooper would go on to direct his most famous work – TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE – in 1974. Inspired by real life serial killer Ed Gein, Hooper wanted to create a horror movie that reflected the real life horrors happening at the time (Vietnam, the Watergate scandal), and that utilized a realistic look and concept to make the terror seem authentic. It was this style that has inspired filmmakers like Ridley Scott, who cited TCM as a major influence on ALIEN.

Hooper made the film for about $300,000 but it would go on to accumulate over $30 million at the domestic box office, becoming a massive success. Audiences flocked to the theaters to witness the guerilla-style film and be swept up in the “based on a true story” angle and, most of all, to shrink in horror at the sight of the film’s grizzly antagonist – Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen). The chainsaw-wielding madman sawed his way into film history and became just as iconic as Frankenstein and Dracula, paving the way for other villains like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger.

He would then go on to direct another hit horror flick – 1982's POLTERGEIST – based on a story from Steven Spielberg, who also produced the movie. The movie was an even bigger success than CHAINSAW, making $76 million off a $10 million budget, and would go on to earn three Oscar nominations for Best Sound, Visual Effects and Original Score.

Sadly, his career after POLTERGEIST failed to reach the heights of his previous successes. He directed a sequel to CHAINSAW in 1986, this time with a more comedic tone. The movie was a critical and box office disaster making only $8 million off a nearly $5 million budget. His other films include NIGHT TERRORS, THE MANGLER, and TOOLBOX MURDERS. His last film, 2013’s DJINN, was set and filmed in the United Arab Emirates.

Though his post POLTERGEIST work may not be as memorable, there is no denying the man created a true horror masterpiece with TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Completely innovative in its time, the movie stands as a B-movie phenomenon that has gone on to inspire scores of directors and films thanks to its brutality, and emphasis on tension over bloody thrills. The movie’s raw power still holds up today, and it’s no wonder why after all these years people are still terrified by the image of the deranged killer swinging around the massive chainsaw.

Source: Variety

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