Like his cinema, Tobe Hooper’s voice was that kind of resonant, droll, molasses-like drawl that you never forget. I’ve only heard it in a handful of commentaries and interviews but that’s a voice that impresses with clarity. It’s this sort of tendency that inflects much of what BGH staff came to recall or find in revisiting Hooper’s work. His are the types of films you remember your first time seeing. Genre defining and boundary busting, his earlier work only grows in its revolutionary esteem.
A key example for me is not The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (because, obviously), but the opening sequence of The Funhouse. Released the same year as DePalma’s Blow Out the two films share an opening sequence that explicitly lampoons moments from Halloween and Psycho. While DePalma’s sequence is perhaps discussed with greater frequency, Hooper’s utilizes a similar setup that brings the audience in on the joke. He never talked down to an audience but he made sure you felt the things that were supposed to hurt.
Just over a month after losing George Romero the BGH staff returns to eulogize an equally legendary and impactful horror filmmaker.
Chris: One of my earliest horror memories is watching Poltergeist on HBO. Over and over. I had no idea who Tobe Hooper was at the time. All I knew was that I loved Poltergeist. I still do. It's easily in my top 5 favorites of all-time. Once I really got into studying directors and movie making, I sought out other work by Hooper. Lifeforce as an impressionable teen. Texas Chainsaw in college. But Poltergeist is one I've gone back to over and over throughout my life. I can honestly say my love of horror would not be the same had Tobe Hooper not seared those images of a suburban family attacked by benevolent spirits into my brain all those years ago. And for that, I'm grateful. R.I.P. Mr. Hooper.
Colin: Perhaps the most generous thing that can be said about Tobe Hooper as a filmmaker is that his films serve as essential pieces of horror education for two separate sub genres. Putting aside it's questionable creative/leadership structure, Poltergeist is a must watch for any viewer looking to break in to haunted house flicks. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a master class in slashers. Heck, while TCM 2 isn't quite up to those other efforts, it still makes for an excellent horror comedy. To succeed to such a degree in so many areas is a true testament to Hooper's talent.
Evan: Losing Tobe Hooper is easily one of the biggest losses for the history of the horror genre. While he didn’t churn out hit after hit, it’s impossible to overlook how his low budget and independent film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shaped what horror is today. Spawning several sequels and remake attempts, the movie is constantly referenced by today’s filmmakers as a key inspiration. So, whether or not things like Lifeforce should be held up as “good movies,” Hooper was part of the rare group of directors that channeled something so perfect that he’ll always be celebrated.
Jayson: When I was 8 years old I managed to catch Tobe Hooper’s remake of Invaders from Mars on television when I should have been sleeping. Instead of being tucked away I was witnessing something I wasn’t intended to see, a strange red and green-lit world fraught with dangers and monsters. The bizarre creature effects, the strange atmosphere and the perfect encapsulation of the story of a young boy no one will listen to captivated me immediately, and helped set me down a path of horror obsession that will be with me forever.
This is the stuff that ignites passion in the next generation of genre lover. Sure, polished, perfected, mature cinema is fun to go back to, and great to learn from once the horror bug has nestled securely. But, to stimulate the creative brain juices you need a visceral whack to normalcy. A proper shredding of the curtains of our world to show a young mind what they previously thought impossible.
Whether it’s PG horror for strange children, monstrous apparitions, or adults hanging on hooks a Tobe Hooper film has its own gritty, undeniable universe. This is what Tobe Hooper did best. There are many horror icons. But, perhaps none so underappreciated. And in part that’s because his films are less about creating flawless characters and structurally sound “films”; it’s about creating gritty worlds through the raw, unblinking eye of inescapable immersive imagination. Sadly, for the next generation of horror aficionados there will never be another like Tobe Hooper.
Andrew: Tobe Hooper is a visionary director that downright refused to ever make the same movie twice. He was constantly tackling the horror genre from new and fascinating angles. Everyone knows and loves the original but my favourite entry in his work has to be Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. A film with such ribald energy, that it amazes you at every turn. The poster is a parody of Breakfast Club, and the film features a chainsaw duel with Dennis Hopper...it doesn't get more Tobe Hooper than that. Rest in peace to one of the true horror visionaries
Shelton: Tobe Hooper’s big movies are so genre-defining gigantic that they tend to outshine everything else. I already know how friggin’ great the first two TCM movies are and Poltergeist and Lifeforce and I’ve seen all of those many times. So when I heard of Tobe Hooper’s passing I decided to pay tribute by watching one of his lesser-known movies. I had vague memories of looking at stills from Spontaneous Combustion in Fangoria when I was kid and when I saw it had Brad Dourif in a rare leading role I knew I had to watch it. I liked it so much that the little paragraph I was writing about it for this tribute here turned into a full on review. It was such a surprising, underseen gem that now I want to dig deeper into Tobe Hooper’s filmography to see what else is out there. I have always been curious about Eaten Alive...