Skip to main content

Hooper, Tobe

HOOPER, Tobe


Nationality: American. Born: Austin, Texas, 1946. Education: Studied film at the University of Texas. Career: Directed commercials and music videos, including "Dancing with Myself," for Billy Idol; director of TV series' The Equalizer (1985), Amazing Stories (1987), Nowhere Man (1995), Dark Skies (1996), Perversions of Science (1997), and The Others (2000); assistant director, University of Texas film school. Agent: William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.


Films as Director:

1963

The Heisters

1969

Eggshells

1974

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (+ sc, pr, composer)

1976

Eaten Alive (+ composer)

1979

Salem's Lot: The Movie; Salem's Lot (TV miniseries); TheDark (replaced by John Cardos)

1981

The Funhouse

1982

Poltergeist

1985

Lifeforce

1986

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2 (+ composer); Invaders from Mars

1989

Spontaneous Combustion (+ sc)

1990

I'm Dangerous Tonight (for TV)

1993

Tobe Hooper's Night Terrors; John Carpenter Presents BodyBags (Body Bags) (for TV, + ro as morgue worker)

1995

The Mangler (+ sc)

1997

Perversions of Science (for HBO)

1998

The Apartment Complex (for Showtime)

2000

Crocodile



Other Films:

1986

Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors (doc) (ro as himself)

1992

Sleepwalkers (Garris) (ro as forensic technician)



Publications


By HOOPER: articles—

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," interview with Marc Savlov, in Austin Chronicle, 2 November 1998.


On HOOPER: articles—

Simpson, Mike, "The Horror Genre: Texas Chainsaw Massacre," in Filmmakers Newsletter, vol. 8, no. 10, August 1975.

Williams, Tony. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," in Movie , no. 25, Winter 1977/78.

Sharrett, Christopher, "The Idea of Apocalypse in The Texas ChainsawMassacre," in Planks of Reason, Barry Keith Grant, editor, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1984.

Brottman, Mikita, "Once upon a Time in Texas: The Texas ChainsawMassacre as Inverted Fairytale," in Necronomicon: The Journalof Horror and Erotic Cinema, Book One, edited by Andy Black, London, 1996.

Freeland, Cynthia, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," in The Nakedand the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror, Colorado, 2000.


* * *

Tobe Hooper's career as a director began at the ripe old age of three, when he went around shooting footage with his family's 8mm camera. While growing up, Hooper continued to make films, and spent as much time as he could watching movies in the Austin, Texas, theatre managed by his father. "My entire filmic vocabulary came from those days," he once noted. "It became a way of life, a way of looking at things."Hooper's first production, Eggshells (1969), took place in a haunted commune toward the end of the Vietnam conflict, and garnered very little attention. "There was a poltergeist in the house, but it was treated subtly. The effects got lost in the statement of the film, so it primarily played at art houses. It only got about fifty play dates." Judging from Eggshells and another early effort, The Heisters (1963), no one could have predicted the attention and storm of controversy that would accompany Hooper's next effort, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

Inspired by the real-life story of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein (as was Psycho before it, and The Silence of the Lambs years later), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre—co-written by Hooper and Kim Henkel, and made on a budget of only $140,000—generated heated debate over the aesthetic merits and potentially negative social effects of modern horror cinema. The story, which begins with some voice-over by a young (and then unknown) John Laroquette, tells of five teenagers on a road trip who have the misfortune of bunking down next to an all-male family of cannibalistic ex-slaughterhouse workers. Without a doubt, the most memorable baddie is Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen in the role of a lifetime), he of the eponymous chainsaw and gruesome visage. Upon viewing this intense film, with its relentless pace and documentary pretensions, critic Rex Reed declared it one of the most frightening movies ever made. Immediately, the Museum of Modern Art purchased a print for its permanent collection, and the film was honored in the "Director's Fortnight" at Cannes. The accolades continued to pour in—the prestigious London Film Festival went so far as to name The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Outstanding Film of the Year in 1974. Eventually grossing close to $31 million at U.S. box offices, and spawning three sequels, Hooper's labor of love stood for a time as one of the most profitable independent films in motion picture history.

Having earned name recognition and a bevy of devoted fans, Hooper's next effort, Eaten Alive (1976; also co-written by Henkel) was a disappointment, despite its promising cast. Known by turns as Death Trap, Horror Hotel, Starlight Slaughter, and Murder on the Bayou, the film stars Neville Brand (Al Capone in the original Untouchables television series) as a psychotic innkeeper with a penchant for murdering guests and feeding them to his pet alligator. Robert Englund, who would go on to make it big as Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven's immensely popular Nightmare on Elm Street series, had a bit part. On the one hand, Eaten Alive seemed too much like Texas Chainsaw Massacre for its own good, with its showcasing of random acts of gratuitous violence; on the other hand, it lacked all of the former movie's grim humor and agonizing tension.

Three years later, Hooper had his second success, this time on television, with Salem's Lot—a faithful, albeit understated, rendition of Stephen King's atmospheric vampire novel (James Mason co-stars). The most uncanny scene has infected youngster Danny Glick (Brad Savage) floating outside a friend's window, tapping on the pane and pleading with him to open it. Returning to the big screen in 1981, Hooper directed The Funhouse, an underrated horror tale about four adolescents who spend the night at a carnival funhouse, only to be stalked by a disfigured killer. Based on an early novel by Dean Koontz (who wrote it under a pseudonym), the film was quickly dismissed by both reviewers and fans of the genre, though in retrospect, its self-reflexivity makes it years ahead of its time.

1982 saw Hooper's biggest commercial success, the Steven Spielberg-penned and -produced haunted house film, Poltergeist. Made on a budget that dwarfed anything he had worked with before (approximately $11 million), Hooper did an excellent job of evoking a creepy atmosphere and utilizing cutting–edge special effects technology. Although criticized for being a little too polished (quite a change from Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre days!), Poltergeist was a huge hit, grossing upwards of $76 million, and spawning two sequels plus a network television show. Sadly, the original film's notoriety has increased since its release, due to the deaths of co-stars Dominique Dunne (murdered by her boyfriend shortly after it opened) and Heather O'Rourke, the little girl with the phone (from intestinal sterosis) six years later.

An inexplicable unevenness has plagued Hooper throughout his career, as is testified to by his work in the 1980s. After Poltergeist came the science fiction-horror hybrid Lifeforce—a thorougly average effort at combining vampires, aliens, and female nudity. Next came the very dark, very gory, and surprisingly intelligent horror comedy, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2 (1986), starring Dennis Hopper as a former Texas Ranger seeking revenge for the chainsaw murder of his brother. A disappointing big-budget remake of the 1953 sci-fi classic Invaders from Mars followed. Since then, Hooper has moved back and forth between the big and small screen; highlights include the pilot for a popular television series, Nowhere Man (1995), starring Bruce Greenwood as a documentary photographer whose whole life is seemingly erased in the course of one evening. An original, talented, and unpredictable director, Tobe Hooper's contributions to the horror genre are many, and his developing projects are eagerly anticipated.

—Steven Schneider

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Hooper, Tobe." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Hooper, Tobe." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hooper-tobe

"Hooper, Tobe." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved July 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hooper-tobe

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.