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Posts Tagged ‘Tobe Hooper’

Eggshells

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Holy shit you guys, I never really thought I’d see EGGSHELLS! It’s the weird psychedelic movie Tobe Hooper made in 1969 – five years before THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. According to Hooper it only really played about fifty times, and only in Texas. It had never been on video until 2013, when it was included as a bonus disc for Arrow’s Region B limited edition of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. I didn’t know about it in time to get it.

But recently a copy of that disc was donated to the collection of Scarecrow Video, so I checked it out. It’s a beautiful restoration and the disc includes a Hooper commentary track, which I’m glad I listened to, because it sure gave me a better idea what was supposed to be going on. You wouldn’t necessarily know this was the work of a future Master of Horror, because it hadn’t yet occurred to him that the horror genre was a good hook to get your movie played in drive-ins. There’s possibly a supernatural force in it, but it’s not used for scares – just trippiness, I’d say. (read the rest of this shit…)

Toolbox Murders and the reclamation of Tobe Hooper

Monday, October 31st, 2022

Happy Halloween, everybody! Several  years ago I started an annual tradition of  challenging myself to write about on an all-time horror classic, probing deep into what makes it great and/or meaningful to me at that moment in time. This year I decided to do it a little different and point my flickering flashlight at one of the less respected films by a certified Master of Horror.


In 1974, in Austin, Texas, a former college professor and indie-film tinkerer suddenly made one of the greatest horror movies of all time. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE was produced independently for $140,000, with unknown local actors, and released through a mafia-owned company founded to distribute DEEP THROAT. But it was great, and it became a long-running hit, and it shot the name ‘TOBE HOOPER’ across a trail of drive-in screens straight into Hollywood. It inspired Wes Craven to make THE HILLS HAVE EYES, Ridley Scott called it the biggest influence on ALIEN, Steven Spielberg liked it so much he recruited Hooper to direct POLTERGEIST. It got Hooper noticed, and within a few years he was in L.A. filming his next Texas-set indie EATEN ALIVE on a Hollywood soundstage with famous actors.

Nearby, aspiring producer Tony Didio read in the trades about the ongoing success of CHAIN SAW as it was re-released each year. Thinking he would like to make some money too, he screened the movie for some writers and told them to make him something like that. The result was THE TOOLBOX MURDERS, which was released in 1978 to scathing reviews and modest profit, became notorious as one of the “Video Nasties,” and at least had a title recognizable to horror fans.

A quarter century later, things were very different. Hooper hadn’t made a well-received movie since the mid-‘80s, and that’s only if you count the once-divisive LIFEFORCE or THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 as well-received. If you don’t you gotta go back to POLTERGEIST, which many try to deny Hooper credit for. In 2003 CHAIN SAW was remade by Michael Bay’s production company, with Hooper’s blessing (and co-producer credit) but little involvement. He’d mainly been directing for quickly forgotten TV shows like The Others, Night Visions and Taken. As far as the popular consciousness was concerned he only existed in the past. He’d disappeared.

Didio had produced half a dozen films since his horror debut, none of them well known. According to Fangoria’s 2004 coverage, Jim Van Bebber (DEADBEAT AT DAWN) approached the producer with a spec script for a TOOLBOX MURDERS sequel (I would’ve liked to see that!), so Didio commissioned him to write a remake too. But when Hooper himself came aboard to direct the remake of his own rip-off, he brought in Jace Anderson & Adam Gierasch (CROCODILE, DERAILED, MOTHER OF TEARS) to write a totally different script. Taking the idea of a guy in a ski mask drilling people in an apartment building and surrounding it with so much more, Hooper didn’t so much remake THE TOOLBOX MURDERS as cut off its title and wear it as a mask. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

Saturday, October 31st, 2020

Two Halloweens ago we discussed Tobe Hooper’s first masterpiece. This is his second. He didn’t even want to direct it at first, sort of got pushed into it, but damn did he rally. In many ways THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is the Tobe Hooperest movie ever made.

I don’t blame you if you’re skeptical during the opening scene where two obnoxious “senior boys at Wheeler High” calling themselves “Buzz and Rick the Prick” drunkenly drive a Porsche, fire guns, and harass the K-OKLA request line until they receive a drive-by chainsawing on a bridge that must’ve been built by the same people who made that endless runway from the climactic chase in FURIOUS 6. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sleepwalkers

Friday, October 30th, 2020

A rare movie-watching phenomenon that I love: rewatching one I saw decades ago, and have always believed sucked, but discovering that I really like it now. It happened with THE MANGLER, Tobe Hooper’s crazy adaptation of a Stephen King short story, and it’s happened again with SLEEPWALKERS, the first movie written by King that’s not based on a previously published work. Maybe it’s something about King’s stories, but more likely it’s that my tastes in horror have evolved since I was a teenager and saw this in the theater.

The mythological premise is established with a little text at the beginning: there are these fuckers called sleepwalkers, they are nomadic shapeshifters who are like vampires but instead of blood they suck the lifeforce of “virginal females,” and instead of sun or garlic or whatever they’re susceptible to cat scratches.

It’s a Stephen King thing. Just go with it. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

I think this was the cover art when I first fell in love with THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE

Happy Halloween, everybody! As is sometimes my tradition, I have managed to do a write-up of one of my all time favorite movies that I haven’t done an official piece on. In 2016 I finally got the balls to do THE THING, and in 2017 I did INFERNO. I guess when I did DAWN OF THE DEAD it was a month after Halloween, but that’s the type of review I’m going for here.

One Halloween I just compared the Fresh Prince unofficial Freddy Krueger song to the official Fat Boys one. You can only do that once though I think.

These reviews of the classics are intimidating because there’s such a risk of saying the same shit that’s already been said, but I’m tired of linking to my Ain’t It Cool News review of a DVD release every time I mention it, which is inconvenient when I seem to compare half the movies I watch to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. I remember I even compared the Kathryn Bigelow racism drama DETROIT to it. Incidentally, even though I’ve been thinking about HALLOWEEN movies all month the world is feeling more TEXAS CHAIN SAW to me these days.

In other words, be warned: this is one of the ones where I relate the movie to the politics of today, so if you hate that, please don’t read, and go have a happy Halloween. If not, please do read, then have a happy Halloween.

* * *

THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. One of the greatest horror movies since they started makin’ ’em. Not sure if I’ve mentioned that before, but it’s true.

It’s a movie that has grown on me and with me. When I first saw it I was probly 13 and I thought it was dumb. Just some crappy footage of a dude chasing people around in the dark. I was a Freddy guy. Saw it again in my twenties and it became pretty much my favorite movie. Back then it was VHS (not sure if it was even letterboxed) and I really believed that the raw quality of the footage was part of its magic. That it felt like a documentary, one made by crazy people.

After believing that for years I got that remastered edition that Dark Sky Films released, the one in the steel case (which I took these screengrabs from). It looked so much cleaner I wasn’t sure if I should accept it at first. Now I watch the way-more-pristine-than-that Blu-Ray and I love the movie even more as the controlled, artful craftsmanship it had always secretly been. For the moment, forget “drive-in” or “grindhouse” and think “great American film of the ’70s,” even if it’s all of those things. (read the rest of this shit…)

Masters of Horror: Dance of the Dead / The Damned Thing

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Dance of the Dead is Tobe Hooper’s first episode of the Masters of Horror anthology TV show – it was the third week of the series, November 2005, airing after episodes by Don Coscarelli and Stuart Gordon. Made in the throes of the Bush years, one could argue that the wars overseas and upheaval at home subconsciously gave it its apocalyptic flavor, much as TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE has been said to have been marinated in Vietnam era angst.

Not that it’s as good. Or even close. Like all Masters of Horror episodes, its TV budget, schedule, locations and crew dull the edge of any cinematic flair or authorial vision. That’s a bad mix with Hooper’s decision to go a little Tony Scott with the Avid farts and camera shakes. That style might’ve been intended as a translation of the showy writing style in the short story by Richard Matheson (whose son Richard Christian Matheson wrote the adaptation), but I found it cheesy and forced, with the exception of a long convertible joy ride sequence, where the camera movement effectively conveys the high speeds the characters are moving at both physically and mentally. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Funhouse

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

After SALEM’S LOT but before POLTERGEIST, Tobe Hooper did a humble little teen horror movie that acts as a rickety jerry-rigged bridge between his nasty beginnings and his guy-who-works-with-Spielberg years. Filming in Florida, Hooper was able to create a vibe of sweaty southern depravity in the tradition of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and EATEN ALIVE, but bigger – THE FUNHOUSE is a $3 million Universal movie. I don’t know if it’s the sweeping aerial views from cinematographer Andrew Laszlo (THE WARRIORS, FIRST BLOOD, REMO WILLIAMS) or the ominous orchestral score by John Beal (primarily a composer for trailers), but I swear there’s a faintly classy polish on this trashy drive-in sideshow.

I suppose the influence of HALLOWEEN might’ve contributed. The opening is an obvious homage – maybe even straight up ripoff – a POV shot of what turns out to be a kid (Shawn Carson, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES) putting on a clown mask and creeping up on his naked sister (Elizabeth Berridge, AMADEUS, HIDALGO). The difference is that he’s not a psycho, just a little brat trying to scare her. This pranking and the horror movie memorabilia in his room don’t turn out to be relevant, other than that the real horror he encounters hides itself under a Frankenstein’s monster mask, and when he sees it he won’t be laughing, he’ll be crying like a baby. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Mangler

Monday, October 16th, 2017

THE MANGLER (1995) is a potent mix of silly Stephen King short story premise and unhinged Tobe Hooper fever dream. That means it has  killer inanimate objects, but with the late Texas horror master’s sweaty, depraved lunatic tormenters stirred in like a salted caramel swirl.

Yes, this is a movie about a possessed industrial laundry press that seems to fold more people than it does sheets. You got a problem with that? I sure did in the ’90s when I saw this on VHS and thought it was the dumbest shit I ever saw. This time I was not so closed-minded. In today’s world we need to have more empathy for everyone, including murderous haunted laundry machines.

You may be wondering how the hell this Mangler (actual tagline: “It has a crush on you!”) manages to rack up a body count since it’s not exactly Christine rolling around town listening to George Thorogood, it’s a big-ass metal machine at least the size of a half-length bus and looking three times the weight, with no wheels. Well, I’m happy to report that there’s a part where (SPOILER) the heroes are hauling ass down a mysterious subterranean staircase squealing “We’re fucked!” as the Mangler chases and snaps at them like an angry pitbull. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tobe Hooper’s Night Terrors

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

TOBE HOOPER’S NIGHT TERRORS (or THE MARQUIS DE SADE’S NIGHT TERRORS according to the menu of the German DVD I watched – it’s VHS-only in the States) is a lesser known one from Hooper’s disreputable ’90s period. This was 1993, when he was doing alot of TV, but theatrical-movie-wise it came between SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION and THE MANGLER.

I’d actually never seen this one before and I’m glad I waited until now because I can at least respect its place in Hooper’s filmography and its rejection of normal horror ideas. Can’t really say I like it, though.

What is the premise? I’ve seen it, so I have a good guess. It’s about Genie (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), a young American woman played by Zoe Trilling (DR. GIGGLES, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2) who goes to Alexandria, Egypt to stay with her archaeologist father Dr. Matteson (William Finley, THE PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, EATEN ALIVE, THE FUNHOUSE), meets a few people, experiments with her sexual boundaries and then gets chained up by some sadists. (read the rest of this shit…)

Invaders From Mars

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

In the ’80s, lots of people were trying to make Steven Spielberg movies. And obviously POLTERGEIST is Tobe Hooper’s Steven Spielberg movie. Or Steven Spielberg’s Tobe Hooper movie. These days it sounds like they should’ve just been credited as co-directors if it had been allowed. Accounts vary. So let’s forget all that and call INVADERS FROM MARS his version of a Spielberg movie, but not a regular Spielberg movie. It’s the type that the weirdo who directed LIFEFORCE would make. And that Golan and Globus would produce.

It was, in fact, Hooper’s followup to LIFEFORCE (which the kid is watching in part of the movie – lenient parents) and has a screenplay by the same duo. That would be the great Dan O’Bannon (ALIEN, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) and the mysterious Don Jakoby (DEATH WISH 3, ARACHNOPHOBIA, DOUBLE TEAM, VAMPIRES – how is the writer of all of those not legendary?) Hooper was still editing this when he started TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, so by my calculations this is right near the peak of feverish Hooper creativity. (read the rest of this shit…)