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Sad news today for both horror and movie fans. Tobe Hooper, the director of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, has passed away. He was 74 years-old. He died Saturday in Sherman Oaks, California. The Los Angeles County Coroner confirmed Hooper's death, but no reason has yet been given for his passing. Hooper is best known for his 1974 film Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is widely seen as one of the most influential horror films ever made.
Tobe Hooper began his career in filmmaking in the 1960's as a college professor and documentary cameraman in his native Austin, Texas. One day, while shopping in an overly crowded hardware store, Hooper eyed a chainsaw and thought that if he started it up the crowd wouldn't hesitate to part for him. This is where Hooper first developed the idea of a horror film where the main villain wields the power tool as a weapon, which evolved into Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hooper wrote the screenplay with Kim Henkel and they loosely based the story, and main character Leatherface, on the crimes of Ed Grein, whose life has been the basis for other great horror movies like Silence of the Lambs and Psycho.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows the story of a group of teenagers (all of whom were local and mostly unknown actors) who come across a family of cannibals while on their way to an old homestead. The cannibals are led by the towering and enigmatic Leatherface, a masked man who wields a chainsaw as a weapon. Tobe Hooper made the film on a budget of $300,000 and it went on to gross over $30 million at the domestic box office. Though the film was originally banned from screening in several countries due to its gruesome content, the film has since been praised for its use of restraint in showing violence. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a forefather of the slasher genre and originated several elements common in the genre today, such as using a power tool as a weapon and the villain being a large, faceless, figure. The horror film spawned an entire franchise, which consisted of sequels (Hooper directed Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 himself), remakes, and prequels such as the upcoming origin film, Leatherface.
The success of Texas Chainsaw Massacre allowed Tobe Hooper to work on films with a bigger budget. His second most notable piece of work is the 1982 supernatural horror film Poltergeist. Originally conceived by Steven Spielberg, the film told the story of a family who moves into a new home, only to find that it is haunted due to it having been built above a burial ground. Poltergeist was another hit for Hooper and went on to spawn its own franchise.
Tobe Hooper did not have another major hit throughout the rest of his career and seemed to prefer working on shoe-string budget horror films. His work includes a TV adaptation of Stephen King's Salem's Lot, Life Force, remakes of Invaders From Mars and The Toolbox Murders, and a music video for Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself." His last credited film is 2013's Djinn.
Tobe Hooper is survived by one son.