Tobe Hooper, the horror visionary behind such classics as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and ‘Salem’s Lot, has died. He was 74 years old.
According to Variety, a Los Angeles County Coroner confirmed that the filmmaker died on Saturday in Sherman Oaks, California. However, the reason for his death is not currently known.
Born in Austin, Texas on January 25, 1943, Hooper grew up with two parents who owned a theater in San Angelo. At the age of nine, Hooper began making movies with his father’s 8mm camera, eventually going on to study film at the University of Texas and later drama in Dallas under the mentorship of Baruch Lumet.
Throughout the ’60s, Hooper worked as a documentary cameraman as he taught in college. His 1965 short film, The Heisters, was invited to be entered into the short film category at that year’s Academy Awards, but was not finished in time.
His big break, however, would arrive nearly a decade later with 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, one of the most groundbreaking horror films of all time, and certainly a candidate for the most terrifying. Produced for $300,000 and shot across Texas with unknowns, the film would go on to make over $30 million dollars at the domestic box office and spawn endless controversy.
From there, Hooper began to add more horror films to his oeuvre, including 1977’s Eaten Alive, the 1979 television adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, and 1981’s Funhouse. In 1983, Hooper directed the blockbuster horror film, Poltergeist, which was written and produced by Steven Spielberg, although multiple reports have since surfaced indicating that Spielberg had a greater hand in directing.
In 1986, Hooper returned to Leatherface and co. with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which starred Dennis Hopper and took on a decidedly more campy twist on the formula. Although it was poorly received upon its release, the film has garnered quite a cult following and continues to pop up in best-of lists to this day.
(Ranking: Every Horror Movie Sequel From Worst to Best)
Following this, Hooper continued to float around the horror world, directing episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares, Tales From the Crypt, and Masters of Horror, in addition to helming B-movies like 1990’s Spontaneous Combustion, 1993’s Body Bags, and 1995’s The Mangler. His more recent films have included his 2006 zombie thriller Mortuary and 2013’s supernatural thriller Djinn.
Outside of film, Hooper also directed the music video for Billy Idol’s 1983 single “Dancing with Myself” and wrote a post-modern horror novel in 2011 titled Midnight Movie in which he features as the main character.
Hooper is survived by his one son.