In Memoriam:: Tobe Hooper

TOBE HOOPER is well known for creating one of the most frightening and influential horror films of all time. I personally found THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE so fiercely disturbing upon my first viewing that I was left feeling queasy for hours afterward. I’m not kidding; just ask my little brother who suffers from the same post-TCM-stress disorder. Years later when we were older we thought its sequel THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 would be a breeze but then our doorbell rang during the nightmare opening scene and we realized we were both too freaked out to answer it. HOOPER rightfully will always be strongly connected to his cherished masterpiece but I’m truly a huge fan of his entire creative output. Maybe there are a couple misfires but that can be said for any artist. He did things differently and I think his unexpected counter-intuitive viewpoint is exactly what made his work so fascinating and effective. He never took the obvious path. Here are some of my favorite TOBE HOOPER memories. Like many horror fans, I am forever indebted to the man for his incomparable contributions…

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1979) As stated above, TCM rocked my world. It felt so chaotic and feral and purely unsafe and I think it slapped the idea that goodness will always prevail right out of my head. The house (at least on the outside) resembled my family’s earliest home and reminded me of my very first memories of the world. How could such things happen there? More importantly, why did I think it was a good idea to eat fried seafood out of a Styrofoam container on an aluminum TV tray while watching this rented VHS? I had to go lie down afterwards. It was like having a hangover at age 13.

SALEM’S LOT (1979) The TV film that launched a million kindertraumas. I’ll never forget having to go to bed after seeing that smiling demon float through the window. I couldn’t have been more terrified if it happened to me and it felt like it had. Those kids were my age. That looked like my room. This scene has lost exactly zero of its power. It remains one of the most purely eerie visions ever created. Chills.

THE FUNHOUSE (1981) I adore this movie and it’s one that I think gets better with every view. Amy Harper (the incredible ELIZABETH BERRIDGE) is so much deeper than your average final girl. She’s actually more like the usual cynical sidekick that goes looking for trouble and finds it. She wants to break free from her parental restraints and then feels completely lost and vulnerable when she does. It’s really a brilliant film about the horrors of growing up and leaving childhood behind. There’s one scene in which Amy looks out of the funhouse she’s trapped in and can see her parents looking for her but she can’t make contact and it’s heartbreakingly similar to Dorothy seeing Auntie Em in a crystal ball in THE WIZARD OF OZ. It’s one of my favorite moments in all of horror and it’s so brilliantly underplayed. I wrote a longer review way back HERE and it’s one of my favorite posts just because I remember how much fun I had writing it. And don’t get me started on just how delicious this movie is on a purely visual level; I could look at it all day.

POLTERGEIST (1982) I don’t care how much is SPIELBERG and how much is HOOPER. There’s nothing wrong with collaboration, all that matters is the end result. On the way back from the movie theater after seeing this perfect slice of cinema heaven my friends and I decided to cut through a graveyard. This was either the best or worst idea ever and I’m kind of surprised that I didn’t return home with a streak of grey on my 14-year-old head. This movie is as much fun as it is genuinely terrifying and that damn clown doll can haunt you at any age.

EATEN ALIVE (1977) I somehow didn’t get around to EATEN ALIVE until I was in college and maybe that’s good thing. I think its consistent weirdness would have thrown me off as a kid. As an adult I really admire how this film feels so much like a nightmare you can’t wake up from. Full gushing review HERE.

LIFEFORCE (1985) I saw this crazy sci-fi horror mash up when it first came out and it flew directly over my head. I had no idea what was going on. But later in life when I decided to check it out in HD it just opened up completely for me and I was in love. Check out my change of heart HERE.

THE TOOLBOX MURDERS (2004) Talk about underrated! This remake in name only is one of my favorite horror films of its time period and I think it’s nearly right up there with HOOPER’s finest. Full love letter HERE.

And let me say HOOPER was very reliable in delivering on the small screen as well. Besides gifting us with the aforementioned unforgettable miniseries SALEM’S LOT, he also handed over excellent episodic work to FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES (1988 “No More Mr. Nice Guy”), old pal SPIELERG’s TAKEN (2002 “Beyond the Sky”), buddy JOHN CARPENTER’s BODY BAGS (1993 “Eye”) and my personal favorite, THE OTHERS (2000 “Souls on Board”) just to name a few.

In closing, I love TOBE HOOPER. I will always love TOBE HOOPER. I wish I could properly explain how much. I think a lot of people very rudely wanted him to somehow repeat the watershed magic that was CHAINSAW and that’s just greedily asking for the impossible. CHAINSAW is a once in a lifetime perfect storm. I commend HOOPER for exploring uncharted territory no matter the result and I think as the years go on we all will more fully realize how fantastic his post TCM work actually is. I keep reading how HOOPER’s favorite drink was Dr. Pepper. How fitting that he would enjoy something known for it’s against the norm uniqueness.How fitting that he’d have no interest in the more popular conformist colas. Our man HOOPER was a Pepper! Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?

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4 years ago

I knew I could count on Kindertrauma to leave a fitting tribute to another horror kingpin that has left us. I’m still nursing the wounds of George Romero’s passing and now Hooper. Tobe deserves a spot on the Kindertrauma Wall of Fame for Poltergeist alone! That one kept me scared all throughout my childhood and still has the power to shock.

4 years ago

Got a Library Card? Use it to log in to! You can “borrow” 5 items per month, and while pokin’ around the other day, I discovered that Hooper’s Eaten Alive is available! Djinn, too!

4 years ago

Very well done. I live in Houston and his death slipped by me with all the trouble here. I watched TCM a couple weeks ago now will rustle up another Hooper flick. Also, I watched Salem’s Lot with my parents (cool, huh?) when in was broadcast in 1979. Never forget the vampire Glick kid biting his brother and the freeze frame on that to end part one. Burnt into my brain. I was on the floor watching from under a blanket. Mostly.

Madamoiselle Macabre
Madamoiselle Macabre(@madamoiselle-macabre)
4 years ago

Don’t forget, he also directed “Dead Wait,” the episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT with James Remar and Whoopie Goldberg as a voodoo queen!

I don’t think I could have written a better tribute to such a unique and creative master of horror. Out of all my horror heroes, I think Tobe Hooper is responsible for the most kindertraumatic memories.

SALEM’S LOT — I was more than a little Wednesday Addams-ish, so movies didn’t scare me much as a kid. I developed a taste for horror movies early on, but was always a little disappointed that they weren’t as scary as I had imagined they were going to be. Not so with SALEM’S LOT. Like a lot of other traumatots, I had nightmares about the Glick boys floating outside my bedroom windows. I think I screamed and hid underneath a blanket at the first appearance of Mr. Barlow. Who the hell am I kidding — I’m STILL afraid of Mr. Barlow. I’m still afraid of vampires (especially now that they’ve gotten whiny). And normally I’d welcome an undead Geoffrey Lewis, but not this time!

LIFEFORCE — I think my parents were watching this on TV and I caught the scene where Naked Space Vampire revives and sucks the life right out of the doctor. And not only that — the doctor pops back up as some undead-lifeforce-suckin’-sack-a-bones-monster. My fragile little mind couldn’t handle that. I refused to go in the bathroom in my dad’s office building because it had the same tile as the examining room in that movie and I was not entirely convinced that a naked space vampire or a bony undead lifeforce-suckin’ monster wouldn’t be there.

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE — As a shy, smart-alecky weirdo, I always hated school so the prospect of starting at a new school was especially traumatic. What if the other kids didn’t like me? What if they thought I was weird and made fun of me? But this wasn’t just a new middle school — it was all girls Catholic school. The horror…the horror. But hey, because they knew I was so anxious, my parents took me to the video store and let me pick out a movie. Already a rabid horror fan, I picked THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. It was a good choice because I loved it! I had grown up in and was still living in Houston at the time and had decided I wanted to be a horror writer. Watching a low-budget movie made right there in Texas by a bunch of local filmmakers made that dream finally seem accessible. Well, unfortunately the first day of school was what I feared it was going to be. The other girls made fun of me and they DID think I was weird! And on that very same day, my parents decided they were getting a divorce. My dad had already moved out when I got home from school.
But I didn’t cry. I didn’t pitch a fit. I just went to my room and put the tape of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE back in the VCR. Then I rewound it and watched it again. I guess some people might find that disturbing, but it’s a coping method I still use to this day! And it works! Who needs Prozac when you have TCM?

I’m sad Mr. Hooper’s gone and am sure gonna miss him. Much love from one Texan to another. And much love to Sampanaflex, Unk’s family and all the other good folks hit by Harvey! I now live in the state responsible for THE MUTILATOR, but I’ll always be a devoted Houstonian and proud Texan. And I can’t even type any more because my heart is overflowing with love for Mattress Mack!

Madamoiselle Macabre
Madamoiselle Macabre(@madamoiselle-macabre)
4 years ago

Oh, wow — thank you! That means a lot coming from my favorite blog writer!

I love that your family is going to have a Mattress Mack day. I’m a sucker for local commercials anyway, but I used to always chant “Save…you…money!” along with the ad.

And lo’ and behold, I discovered Mattress Mack has his own YouTube channel!