|On January 25, we’ll celebrate the birthday of the late, great Tobe Hooper, the filmmaker who disturbed theater-goers in 1974 with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That seminal horror film, about a family of barbecue-loving psychopaths living in the badlands, gave the world the iconic Leatherface while proving that audiences could be grossed out without actually showing them blood.
Hooper followed the original TCM with 1976’s giant-crocodile opus Eaten Alive, the 1979 miniseries of Stephen King’s vampire epic Salem’s Lot (still one of the best King adaptations ever — who can forget that kid floating outside the window?), 1981’s carnival thriller The Funhouse, 1985’s loopy love-it-or-hate itLifeforce, and the 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars.
However, two movies and one music video will be most fondly remembered by horror fans: 1982’s big-budget suburban ghost story Poltergeist (despite persistent rumors that co-writer and producer Steven Spielberg may have directed much of the movie), 1986’s deliciously demented The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, featuring one of Dennis Hopper’s most flamboyant performances as a Stetson-wearing Texas lawman hunting down Leatherface with his own chainsaw; and, in 1983, the music video for Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself,” in which Idol ascends a skyscraper in an open elevator while blithely ignoring the scenes of carnage playing out behind him.
After the ‘80s, Hooper turned mostly to television, where he directed memorable episodes of Tales from the Crypt (“Dead Wait”), the alien-invasion series Dark Skies (the pilot), Freddy’s Nightmares (“No More Mr. Nice Guy”), and Masters of Horror (“The Damned Thing,” adapted from a classic Ambrose Bierce story; and “Dance of the Dead”, adapted by Richard Christian Matheson from a story by his father, Richard Matheson). Hooper’s last feature films were 2004’sToolbox Murders, 2005’s Mortuary, and 2013’s Djinn. He also wrote one novel, Midnight Movie, published in 2011.
Tobe Hooper passed away from natural causes in 2017 (he was 74), but his work won’t be forgotten. Happy birthday, Tobe Hooper! Hope the barbecue’s great in Heaven.