Sunday, August 27, 2017

R.I.P., Tobe Hooper

It saddens me to report the death of Tobe Hooper, legendary filmmaker, aficionado of the American underbelly, and modern horror pioneer. His films are near and dear to my heart. Non-horror fans might assume his work is simply gruesome and shock-laden (though, surely, it is often that!), and miss out on the weirdo profundity he mines from the most outrageous scenarios––the chaotic gaze of a caged chicken amid a bone-art gallery in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, the Reagan-era culture wars playing out amid the complex marriage at the center of POLTERGEIST, the obsessive sexual psychodrama between Caroline Williams and Leatherface in CHAINSAW PART 2, or the search for atomic-era familial identity in SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION... when the man was "on," he was on.

My absolute favorite is (perhaps obviously) THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, which reinvented the genre and has never been truly equalled; a strange slice of morbid life recorded with Herzogian pragmatism and Rohmer-esque passivity.

POLTERGEIST, his big-budget collaboration with Steven Spielberg, is a deeply nuanced and well-acted piece of work, especially considering that it's sort of the ultimate corporate/Hollywood haunted-house flick.

LIFEFORCE, the first of his three Cannon Films, throws everything but the kitchen sink into a sci-fi/horror hybrid and is an extremely ambitious mashup of ALIEN, SUPERMAN II, and NOSFERATU, with a lot more naked space vampire.

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2 makes no (futile) attempts to duplicate the uniqueness of the original, and chooses to adapt the narrative with a bold, Gran Guignol, '80s rockabilly palette (and essentially launches the filmmaking career of Rob Zombie).

'SALEM'S LOT adapts Stephen King for the small-screen and despite some general shortcomings, possesses some truly haunting imagery, brilliant performances, and a sure-handed sense of visual flair.

His segment of John Carpenter's BODY BAGS finally brings together the majestic combination of Twiggy, Mark Hamill, baseball, and body horror. (And an acting cameo!)

Then there's SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION, which gifts us with one of Brad Dourif's more volatile performances; EATEN ALIVE, a Southern grotesque with a killer croc and Robert Englund; and THE FUNHOUSE, a visually innovative carny-slasher. Hell, the man even directed the bizarre, post-apocalyptic music video for Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself."

R.I.P., Tobe. Here's to you, and the work you left behind.


gweeps said...

I've never seen Spontaneous Combustion, so I need to seek that out.

My favourite also is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It's so damn grimy it makes your skin crawl. But I also really liked #2. Dennis Hopper is fun in it. Can you say dueling chainsaws?

And I need to rewatch Poltergeist.

The past couple of years haven't been great for horror film directors.

John Guedes said...

RIP Tobe! INVADERS FROM MARS also deserves mention, a fun creature feature from my 80's childhood.