Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel: A Tribute to Tobe Hooper
"The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected, nor would they have wished to see, as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre."
Normally we don't lead with a quote quite that long, but that paragraph, read in the film by John Larroquette (who would go on to star in "Night Court" and several other television series), perfectly set the tone for one of the greatest horror films of all time. And it's about damn time someone associated with that film got a Doctor Gash Tip of the Scalpel. Thank you, Tobe Hooper.
With a resume spanning over 40 years, Hooper introduced himself to us with a verifiable nightmare and continues to stir the pot to this day, as can be evidenced with his upcoming film, Djinn.
Hooper made over 60 documentaries and shorts before creating his indelible masterpiece, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. With a budget of somewhere between $70k and $120k, Hooper managed to create the perfect horror film. Containing unforgettable characters placed in stunning scenarios, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre tattooed itself onto the consciousness of American entertainment, which would never be the same again.
Hooper's success with Leatherface and the Sawyer clan directly led to his being hand-selected for another classic horror film. Richard Kobritz, producer of "Salem's Lot," the 1979 mini-series adaptation of the Stephen King novel, specifically sought out Hooper to take the reins of "Salem's Lot" after viewing The Texas Chain Saw Massace.
And of course we all know Hooper was at the helm of the granddaddy of all haunted house films, the Steven Spielberg produced Poltergeist. Again we were assaulted with images that were hard to forget while trying to go to sleep at night. The clown doll attack, Craig T. Nelson pulling his face off after eating a maggot-filled piece of chicken and of course, the iconic shot of Carol Anne in front of the television reciting the line that would become part of the American lexicon: "They're here..."
If we were to stop at just The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, "Salem's Lot" and Poltergeist, Hooper would already be able to claim a spot amongst the greatest horror directors. But he wasn't done yet. One of the most underrated shockers in the books was also a Tobe Hooper directed film. A year before the release of Poltergeist, Hooper directed a lesser-known film set in a creepy carnival. The Funhouse never grabbed the attention Poltergeist received, but it's an outstanding effort that deserves to be better known.
In 1986, 12 years after the release of his original film, Hooper returned to Texas for the sequel, and this time he brought Tom Savini with him. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 went in a completely different direction than the original film, replacing suspension and tension with comedy and extreme gore, but it worked. And we were introduced to a young actor named Bill Moseley, who would go on to become a horror icon in his own right. Savini's handiwork would be the calling card for Texas Chainsaw 2 as his practical effects were absolutely unparalleled.
Hooper later contributed to several horror anthology shows like "Freddy's Nightmares," "Tales from the Crypt" and "Masters of Horror." He directed a few films that, although decent, didn't play as well as some of his earlier work. He had set the bar pretty high early on. In 2004 Hooper returned with his well received re-imagining of The Toolbox Murders with the great Angela Bettis in the lead role.
And although he's been mostly quiet for the past decade, Hooper suddenly found himself in the spotlight again with his upcoming film Djinn in the center of a controversy. As the film is based in the United Arab Emirates, a member of the country's royal family felt it showed the country in a bad light. Word is now that the problems have been solved, and Djinn is moving toward theaters according to plan.
With the release of Djinn, the upcoming Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, in which Hooper has a cameo, and a new Blu-ray release of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, we'll have plenty of the legendary director to go around in 2012. And thankfully so. Here's a big tip of the Doctor Gash Scalpel to the great Tobe Hooper.
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