It is easy to say that Tobe Hooper played an important part in influencing the horror genre because it is an unarguable fact. His filmography crossed genres and boundaries, repeatedly demonstrating that Hooper was an artist that will be honored for decades to come.
If Mr. Hooper were still with us, he would be celebrating his 76th birthday today. Although we remember, and salute his legacy throughout the year, we take today especially to honor a fantastic filmmaker and the works that will live on as proof of his brilliance.
10. The Mangler
In one of many films that Tobe Hooper and Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street) worked together on, The Mangler (1994) may be one of my favorite collaborations of the two horror icons. This film is based on Stephen King’s short story of the same name about an industrial laundry press that becomes possessed. This demonic machine begins killing workers at the factory that the revolting Bill Gartley (Englund) owns and manages to keep the factory and machine in operation due to his involvement in the town’s corruption.
The beauty of The Mangler is how outrageous the premise is and how seriously it is executed. The film’s characters are exaggerated but still extremely entertaining. Hooper took this Stephen King story and interestingly turned it into a movie that is, in Tobe Hooper fashion, very bizarre and amusing.
9. The Toolbox Murders
The 2004 remake of the 1978 The Toolbox Murders is regarded by many to be Hooper returning to his roots of extravagant and violent filmmaking. Though I believe that his films between The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Toolbox Murders (2004) were creative and violent enough, I do think that The Toolbox Murders (2004) captures the tone that Hooper managed to create a lot of in his early years of filmmaking.
Hooper’s remake isn’t a shot-for-shot remake, but is instead a more creative approach to the original. Hooper’s eye for making violence artistic shines in this film about murders happening within an apartment building. It is thrilling and at times mysterious which, despite how you feel about the original, is definitely taking the story to new places. Is The Toolbox Murders (2004) a beautiful and inspiring movie that should be studied by future filmmakers? Maybe, but not near as much so as a lot of other of Tobe Hooper’s unusual movies.
8. Body Bags
Body Bags (1993) is an example of how so many horror legends can come together to make something that is somehow not as great as most of those filmmakers’ other projects. John Carpenter (Halloween) and Tobe Hooper teamed up to make this horror comedy anthology that was supposed to be Showtime’s version of Tales From the Crypt. The network canceled the plans soon after filming began and so the three segments were put together to make a delightful horror comedy anthology called Body Bags.
Each three of the segments are compelling and feature some amazing cameos such as Sam Raimi and Wes Craven. The formula is very comparable to anthologies like Tales From the Crypt but makes up for it with Carpenter, Hooper, and Larry Sulkis’ excellent storytelling. If anything, the film is worth the watch simply for Mark Hamill (Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope) in Hooper’s segment about an athlete who receives an eye transplant and is then taken over by the spirit of the eye’s previous owner, a serial killer.
7. The Funhouse
The Funhouse (1981) was Universal’s attempt to take advantage of the teenage horror hype that Friday the 13th (1980) had garnered. Obviously, the film didn’t produce the financial success that Friday the 13th (1980) managed to, and The Funhouse became an often forgotten horror film directed by Tobe Hooper. Despite its failed attempt at becoming a giant franchise, the movie doesn’t come close to failing at being an extraordinary and fantastic early 80’s teenage horror film. The movie follows Amy as she attends a carnival with her friends despite her father and strangely sluggish mother scolding her not to after bodies were found at the carnival’s previous location.
This is one of those films that surprises the viewer several times while watching. The film also almost constantly has something major happening in every scene. The Funhouse feels like a project where Tobe Hooper turned a decent script into an odd film with a lot of energy.
The Funhouse is part of a twelve-year stretch in which Tobe Hooper put out eight movies that showed him at his absolute best. The rest of the films on this list are also movies from that twelve-year stretch.
Tobe Hooper’s filmography is full of movies that are sometimes scary, sometimes strange, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes simple just fun. Lifeforce (1985) is somewhat of an encapsulation of all of these characteristics. Based on Colin Wilson’s novel The Space Vampires, Lifeforce is a the story of space vampires that were found in space wreaking havoc throughout London. Lifeforce is actually as much of a good time as that premise makes it seem to be.
This film is another that seems really shines a light on Tobe Hooper’s creativity. Though the movie’s plot does differ from the novel, Hooper took the monsters and scenarios from the book’s story and put them on a screen for us all to see and enjoy. And it continues to be a film that is hard for many to not enjoy as it steadily attacks you with its silliness and action.
5. Salem’s Lot
Salem’s Lot (1979) is another Tobe Hooper directed adaptation of a Stephen King story about vampires. The novel is beloved and impressively, Hooper and writer Paul Monash transformed it to a television series/movie quite successfully. Salem’s Lot has been regarded as a very important vampire movie and has gone on to inspire many other iconic vampire movies including Fright Night (1985) and The Lost Boys (1987).
Tobe Hooper’s approach to making Salem’s Lot had to be much different from his previous films, especially The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Since the miniseries was being made for television, it did not consist of the violence and gore that we expect from most of Tobe Hooper’s films. Instead, Hooper explained that he focused on providing an “atmosphere” to give the miniseries its creepiness. And that is what Hopper accomplished in Salem’s Lot making it not only one of his best movies but also one of the best vampire movies.
Rumors about Tobe Hooper’s credit as director for Poltergeist (1982) have caused a lot of people in the past to question how much he had actually directed. It being a film that Steven Spielberg wrote and produced and Spielberg being a passionate filmmaker in his own right, the story of Hooper’s involvement was speculated about for decades. However, there is enough information out there including interviews with cast members, Mick Garris’ account of the making of the film, and Steven Spielberg’s own words that make it clear to me that Tobe Hooper directed this film and I will always treat it as such.
Poltergeist is the story of a family who begins experiencing supernatural happenings in their home. These encounters eventually lead to their youngest daughter to be taken away into another supernatural realm. This movie remains as powerful today as it was when it released because it tells the story of a family in times of crisis and how they can overcome even the most unusual and evil things to pull through together. Poltergeist is a film full of passion with an incredible score, interesting special effects, and excellent direction from Tobe Hooper. As Garris said, “Tobe’s vision is very much realized there.”
3. Eaten Alive
Three years after Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he directed and released Eaten Alive (1977), a raw and very strange movie about a hotel owner, Judd, with a hotel in the middle of the swamp who feeds his guests to a large crocodile. The movie is the beginning of Tobe Hooper and Robert Englund’s longstanding relationship with Englund playing Buck, an aggressive country boy who can’t seem to get enough sex. The character of Judd is played by Neville Brand (Stalag 17) and is definitely the highlight of the film with his very deranged and senseless violence against everyone that visits his establishment.
Eaten Alive is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated movies that Tobe Hooper directed. It has all of the madness that you expect from Hooper and has an extra layer of absurdity that makes it very disturbing and very entertaining. Just as they did for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper teamed up to score the movie. The score for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is fantastic, but the score for Eaten Alive is absolutely haunting and very, very noisy. Their amazingly peculiar score beautifully adds to the film’s disorderliness. Eaten Alive remains a must-see for any fans of Hooper’s because it provides yet another insight to his genius and his madness.
2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2
It isn’t often that sequels manage to be magnificent and that is especially true for such legendary films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. However, Tobe Hooper is such an exceptional filmmaker that he can absolutely make a second movie based on such strangeness that works as well as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 (1986). The sequel takes a somewhat different path than the first one did by creating a tone that is more humorous and bizarre instead of the terrifying and gruesome ton of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 can interestingly make you chuckle, jump out of your skin, and want to puke all at the same time. That is the excellence that Tobe Hooper brings to the table. With the introduction of Bill Moseley (House of 1000 Corpses) as Chop Top, Jim Siedow’s return as the unhinged cook, and Bill Johnson filling the role of Leatherface, Tobe Hooper constructed something very ingenious with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 and it will continue to live on as an important chapter in Hooper’s filmography
1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Tobe Hooper made his mark on the world of filmmaking with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), an innovative low-budget movie that is just about perfect. The film follows a group of friends who head to a small town in Texas to visit an old family home belonging to two of the young travelers. To their surprise, and to the surprise of the viewer, the group of friends are met with a very large man wearing an apron and a mask made of human skin who then chases them down with a chainsaw.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre holds a place towards the top of the list as one of the greatest and most influential horror movies of all time and it deserves its place there. Hooper took a small amount of money, actors with little experience, and a vision of a violent and intense story and with them made a movie that is both shocking and fascinating. There have been several movies made by Tobe Hooper that truly demonstrate his gift of making films that are unique, but The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the one that blew us away.