Sunday, August 27, 2017

RIP: Tobe Hooper

Christ, it seems like I'm writing a lot of these lately. Woke up to people praising the work of Tobe Hooper and I thought maybe he got a new film out that was particularly good, which seemed to be a rarity for him lately as nothing seemed to measure up to his early work. Sadly, that was not to be the case, as it turned out that Mr. Hooper had passed away.

In case you aren't familiar with him, Tobe Hooper was the director of the masterful Texas Chainsaw Massacre and and Poltergeist, as well as a slew of other minor classics (Lifeforce, TCM2, Funhouse) and some that are probably better off not mentioned at all. Oh yeah, he also directed Salem's Lot and scarred my young self for quite some time with his nightmarish interpretation of Barlow.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre in particular is one of my favorites, and for good reason. The movie is a case study in fear. Despite the implications such a title would bring, the movie is very much light on gore, instead trading it for an escalating series of events that become even more harrowing until at the very end, just like the main character, we are gasping to catch our breath after leaving the madness behind. Hooper wisely didn't bog down the movie with blood that might have repulsed which helped to keep your attention on the screen and the horrors occurring on it. If you haven't seen it before you should, because you won't be disappointed.

In contrast, the first sequel (and only one directed by him), is an absolute madcap romp that trades the scares and tension of the first for a feverish lunacy that starts with a chainsaw attack on a bridge and a radio station invasion and just gets more insane from there. In other words, it is a blast.

It's a shame that in his later years, Hopper never had another big hit, though some like Mortuary and The Toolbox Murders showed some promise before ultimately falling short of reaching the heights of films like TCM and Poltergeist. Still, they were entertaining and never made me regret giving them a chance.

Let's fire up the chainsaw one last time in salute.


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