William Tobe Hooper, legendary director, writer, and producer, passed away of natural causes 26 August, 2017. He was 74 years old. Hooper was directly involved in eighteen films and several television shows, but will always be remembered for his 1974 film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Considered one of the most influential horror films of all time, the movie has spawned numerous sequels, prequels, remakes, and copy-cats since its release, firmly cementing Hooper’s crazy family of cannibals as cultural icons.
Born in Austin, Texas, Hooper began his career as a documentary cameraman. Legend has it that while Hooper was in a busy store waiting in line, he saw the chainsaws for sale on the wall and imagined using one to cut through the crowd. He had been working on a story about isolation in the woods, and combined with the details of a particularly nasty murder case in Houston, and his knowledge of serial killer Ed Gein, Hooper wrote the script with his writing partner Kim Henkel. Using a cast of relatively unknown actors in Texas, and with an extremely small budget, Hooper began shooting his little film, unaware of how it would go on to scare generations of people the world over.
Twelve years later, Hooper would revisit his crazy family of cannibals with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Loaded with even more gore than the original film, Hooper switched gears and played the film for laughs, with surprising results. Between the original film and its sequel, Hooper went on to direct The Funhouse (1981), Lifeforce (1985), and Invaders from Mars (1986). Though listed as director in the credits of Poltergeist (1982), there is some debate whether he or Steven Spielberg directed the film, with most declaring Hooper was assisting Spielberg at best.
Hooper also brought the adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (1979) to the small screen as a two-part mini-series. During 1987 through 2006, Hooper directed many television episodes of various series, such as Freddy’s Nightmares, Tales from the Crypt, Night Visions, and Masters of Horror. In 1993, Hooper joined horror legend John Carpenter for the anthology film Body Bags, starring Robert Caradine, Stacy Keach, and Mark Hamill, with cameos by Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, David Naughton, Twiggy, and Deborah Harry, as well as Carpenter, Hooper and Tom Arnold starring as morgue attendants. Hooper also had a rather famous cameo with Stephen King and Clive Barker in the Mick Garris directed Sleepwalkers. In 2011, Hooper released his only novel, Midnight Movie, about his own fictional experience with a screening of Destiny Express, a film he wrote and directed as a teenager. The documentary style story is pure Hooper, though the book received somewhat mixed reviews.
While his later films didn’t have the impact of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, nonetheless his influence has endured through the years, lifting him up as one of the most influential directors of the horror genre. By portraying the film as a ‘true story’, Hooper’s stark and realistic vision of pure terror struck a chord with audiences, and has remained essential viewing for any fan of horror movies. Using a shoe-string budget and little known actors, Hooper created a film that certainly should have never made it to such acclaim, proving that you don’t need massive budgets and expensive actors and special effects to have a lasting effect. Hooper was living in Sherman Oaks, California at the time of his death, and is survived by his two sons. We here at This Is Horror are deeply saddened by this loss. May Tobe Hooper’s legacy live on forever.
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