The Reel Cinemaniac: Remembering Tobe Hooper

There is an old saying that says something about deaths happen in threes. With the Reaper working overtime these past few months, it seems that deaths are happening hand over fist. No one is safe, not even beloved film directors. First back in April we lost Oscar-winning director Johnathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs). Then in July legendary filmmaker and father of the modern movie zombie George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) moved on—number 2. Sadly, friends and neighbors numero three has expired. I am devastated to report that Tobe Hooper, the visionary horror director best known for helming The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Poltergeist (1982), and Lifeforce (1985) passed away in Sherman Oaks, Calif., on August 26, 2017. He was 74.

Honored with many awards for his directing skills in the horror genre, Tobe Hooper was truly one of horror’s most iconic and influential directors. Before becoming a filmmaker, Hooper,a native of Austin, Texas, spent the 1960s as a college teacher and documentary cameraman. However, in 1973 and 1974, he organized a small cast of teachers and students and made the film that would cement his legendary status: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This movie changed the horror film industry and became an instant classic. Even today it remains on virtually every list of top horror films of all time. Hooper based it upon the real-life case of Ed Gein, a cannibalistic killer responsible for the grisly murders of several people in the 1950s (although in Wisconsin, not Texas).
Hooper’s success with Massacre landed him in Hollywood, where he continued to shine with his adaption of Stephen King’s novel, the miniseries Salem’s Lot (1979). He piggybacked on his miniseries triumph by directing The Funhouse (1981) for Universal Pictures. Then, in 1982, Steven Spielberg enlisted Hooper to direct the second film in his career that would solidify his icon status; the successful and spooktacular haunted house shocker Poltergeist, starring JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, and Craig T. Nelson. During the mid-’80s Hooper directed several films and television projects, including Lifeforce (1985) with Patrick Stewart, the remake of the 1953 alien movie classic Invaders from Mars (1986) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) with Dennis Hopper; as well as episodes of Amazing Stories (1985), The Equalizer (1985), Freddy’s Nightmares (1988) and the 1991 Tales from the Crypt episode “Dead Wait” with Vanity, John Rhys-Davies, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Hooper continued working in television and film throughout the 1990s and 2000s. He gave life to such films as The Mangler (1995), The Apartment Complex (1999), and Toolbox Murders (2004), however none of these films had the impact of his early works, save for perhaps the underappreciated Toolbox Murders. His last film, the 2013 Horror Thriller Djinn, set in the United Arab Emirates, was the first Horror thriller shot in UAE, and featured Lebanese, Egyptian, Emiraty and Saudi actors. Sadly, the story was weak and the acting poor.

Among his other works are the 1983 music video for Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself.” He was asked to write the script for Michael Bay’s 2003 remake of Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. On October 22, 2005, Hooper was inducted into the inaugural class of the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival Hall of Fame in Tempe, Arizona. In 2011, he co-authored a post-modern horror novel with author Alan Goldsher titled Midnight Movie, in which he himself appears as the main character.

Willard Tobe Hooper is survived by his son, William Tony Hooper, who followed in his father’s footsteps to work in the film industry. All happy thoughts and prayers out to the Hooper family during this difficult time. Rest in Paradise, Tobe Hooper.

Joshua Simpkins, affectionately known as “Big” Josh to his friends and family, has resided in the scenic KRV for most of his life. He is an alumnus of Kern Valley High School Class of 1997 and graduated with honors from Cerro Coso Community College Lake Isabella Campus in 2009. Josh is a devoted husband, loving father, and extremely proud grandpa. Not to mention his great love of the cinema is apparent in his film critiques.