Tobe Hooper, a pioneer of the horror genre, has died. The filmmaker who taught movie audiences how terrifying a chainsaw can be in the wrong hands in the low-budget 1974 sleeper hit “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” died Saturday in Los Angeles, The New York Times reports.
Hooper died of natural causes, according to media reports.
Hooper also directed Steven Spielberg’s 1982 ghost story “Poltergeist,” along with episodes of TV horror shows including “Tales From the Crypt” and “Freddy’s Nightmares.”
“Mr. Hooper said that as a young man he loved the horror genre, but found that the films in it had become boring,” The Times reports, quoting Hooper in the 2002 documentary “Masters of Horror” saying: “I figured I was paying two bucks a ticket, a dollar and a half a ticket, and I was getting about 10 cents’ worth of scare.”
But he soon found inspiration in “Night of the Living Dead,” the 1968 zombie movie by George A. Romero, who died last month.
The Times quotes Hooper saying in 2014: “I walked out thinking, ‘O.K., that’s the way to do it.’”
After becoming further inspired by a display of chainsaws in a hardware department, Hooper had the idea for his 1974 classic.
“The result was his breakthrough film, shot in Texas in 100-degree heat with a cast of unknowns and Mr. Hooper, also an unknown, in the director’s chair. (With Kim Henkel, he also wrote the story and screenplay.)” The Times reports. “The tale involves two siblings and their friends, a family of cannibals, and a chain-saw-wielding madman named Leatherface (played by Gunnar Hansen) who wears a mask made of human skin. Drawing some elements from the real-life story of Ed Gein, the movie shocked with its propulsive violence.”
Critics did not embrace the movie, the report notes. “An official of the British Board of Film Classification, which for years refused to certify the movie, described it as trafficking in ‘the pornography of terror,'” The Times notes.
Hooper followed up with “Eaten Alive” in 1976, and went on to a long career directing both film and television. He helmed the sequel “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” in 1986.
Here’s a portion of an interview with Hooper in which he talks about his process, including making “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” …