Horror Master. Legend. Icon. Hero.
Tobe Hooper shocked the world in 1974 with his masterpiece of modern horror cinema, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Never, at that point, had there been a film so real, so visceral, so unrelenting, as Chain Saw; and it was the birth of a horror icon… Leatherface.
Hooper, a good ole boy from Austin, TX, had a way with directing. A manic, spastic tone to all of his cinematic madmen; tough, smart, and grounded in reality leading ladies, and gritty, haunting, and crazy set pieces.
When you look at characters such as Jim Siedow’s Cook from Chain Saw, Chop-Top & L.G. from Chainsaw 2, and Kevin Conway’s “Barker” from Funhouse, it is easy to picture what Hooper may have been like as a comedic filmmaker if horror never panned out for him… but believe me, I’m glad it did.
Hooper brought SO much to the table with his films. Putting the original movie to the side, look at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986). That film, like the first, is nothing short of a masterpiece, but for completely different reasons! Hooper knew there was no way of catching lightning in a bottle twice with the look, feel, and intensity of the original, so he did something new, fresh, and different for the sequel… and it WORKED!
Bill Johnson’s turn as Leatherface brings a fun, sympathetic twist to the character, Jim Siedow was cranked up to 11 for his return as the Cook, Bill Moseley smashed the walls down with his energetic, insane portrayal as Chop-Top, Dennis Hopper… let me repeat that… DENNIS FUCKING HOPPER, who was pitch perfect as the revenge seeking Lefty, and last but not least… Caroline Williams as Stretch.
Williams brought country girl sex appeal and smarts to the “Final Girl” role, giving us something fresh instead of the tired damsel in distress schtick. Her accent, her toughness, and her Daisy Dukes are something that will win you over a 1,000 times. In a nutshell, I hold TCM 2 right beside TCM 74 as equivalent masterpieces, and favourite films.
But the train doesn’t stop there…
Hooper cranked out numerous cult favourites…
Salem’s Lot (1979), which I still hold as the scariest vampire movie EVER made…
The Funhouse (1981), Lifeforce (1985), Invaders from Mars (1986), Toolbox Murders (2004), and The Mangler (1995)!
Now, The Mangler is often panned by fans and critics… but that damn movie is superb! Robert Englund and Hooper together? Nuff said!
Not to mention, Hooper’s 1st episode of the Freddy’s Nightmares series (No More Mr. Nice Guy) is not only the best episode, but the ONLY Krueger origin story you’ll ever need.
Tobe Hooper was not only a mastermind, an icon, and a legend… but he was one of my heroes.
Tobe changed my life so much, and one of my biggest regrets is that I’ll never be able to tell him how much he, and his work, have meant to me.
R.I.P. Mr. Hooper.
I raise a Dr. Pepper and a cigar up in your honour, and hope that Lou Perryman is building you a little fry house up in that big ole sky.
– Matt Cloude