Who will survive and what will be left of them? That is iconic line that graces the movie poster of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, one of the most visceral films ever created; a film that lives on in both infamy and reverence to this day. Its director, horror legend Tobe Hooper, died yesterday in Sherman Oaks, CA, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner who confirmed the news to Variety. No cause of death has been determined yet. He was 74.
Born in Austin, Texas, Hooper made his seminal masterpiece in 1974 for less than $300,000. The film, based on the serial-killing cannibal Ed Gein, tells the story of five friends on a drive through rural Texas to explore the home of the grandfather of Sally (Marilyn Burns) and wheelchair-bound Franklin (Paul A. Partain). They end up encountering a family of cannibals, including the human skin-masked, chain saw-wielding Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen).
The film was a box office hit and gained notoriety for its grizzly violence, having it banned in several countries including the U.K. By modern standards, it’s actually not that bloody. Chain Saw proved to be incredibly influential, helping triggers shift to slasher horror that would dominate the genre in the late 70s and 80s. Hooper returned with a more tongue in cheek take on his cannibal family in the 1986 sequel. The original film spawned two more sequels, a 2003 remake as well as more sequels to that, all of which Hooper helped produce. His passing comes just a month before Leatherface, a prequel to his Chain Saw movies, is set to debut.
Aside from the world of Chain Saw, Hooper wrote and directed many horror films including Eaten Alive (1976) and The Funhouse (1981), and of course he helmed Poltergeist in 1982, which was written and produced by Steven Spielberg. My last memory of Hooper will be helping to run my childhood with one of the best and more revered adaptations of Stephen King’s work, the 1979 TV movie, Salem’s Lot.
Working for the Cannon Group, he wrote and directed cult classic, Lifeforce (1985) and did Invaders From Mars (1986). He worked steadily alongside other horror veterans throughout the late 80s into the 2000s on projects like Body Bags (1993) and Master of Horror (2005-06). His final film, Djinn, was completed in 2013.
Hopper is responsible for creating a horror film and icon that many genre fans hold in their Mt. Rushmore. His filmography puts him up with legends such as Wes Craven and John Carpenter as visionary directors in horror and he will be sorely missed especially as Halloween season rolls around.
RIP Tobe Hooper
January 25, 1943 – August 26, 2017