Last night the 90th annual Academy Awards were held in Los Angeles, CA. The most prestigious and recognized of award ceremonies, it is seen by many as the pinnacle of achievement to win an Oscar, the Golden Statuette. During the ceremony there is a poignant and touching practice known as “In Memoriam,” a look back at the people connected to film, television, and entertainment that we have lost in the past year. For the 90th ceremony, the video reel was done with a backdrop of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder doing a cover of “Room at the Top” by Tom Petty, who passed away this past October. A beautiful way to honor Petty indeed.
But for the horror community, one face was strangely missing from the In Memoriam reel: Tobe Hooper, the director of Poltergeist and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, who died in August at the age of 74. From here on forward, I’d like to direct this piece directly to the people at the Academy Awards.
Hello, Academy Award members in charge of putting together the In Memoriam reel. Firstly, I’d like to thank you for creating a touching tribute to all those who have passed away over the last year. It was a beautiful segment that I’m sure would mean a great deal to those who were on the reel. However, as you probably know by now, the omission of certain people from your reel was met with frustration, disbelief, and, in some cases, anger. For us horror fans, Tobe Hooper not being in the video came as a shock, one that I feel is rightfully felt.
It should first be recognized that Tobe Hooper is listed on the Memoriam page of your site, but as you can see by reactions online, many feel like this is not enough. I’d like to take this as an opportunity not to come at your with disbelief and anger but rather as a chance to enlighten you as to why we, the horror community, believe such an omission was a mistake.
You see, Tobe Hooper’s work has helped shape horror in some truly amazing ways. If we look at Poltergeist alone, we can see the cultural impact that he has had. The film has been referenced in “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “American Dad!,” Ace Venture: Pet Detective, Ringu, Drag Me to Hell, “Supernatural,” and so much more. It was also remade in 2015 with now Academy Award winner Sam Rockwell as the father. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist was a wonderful example of how horror can be made for adults and children as well as for people who want story along with frights. A masterful film that put a premium on character development, Poltergeist has become, rightfully so, a classic in not just horror but cinema overall.
However, Poltergeist is not Hooper’s biggest claim to fame within the horror world. That honor goes to 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Hailed as one of the most terrifying films to hit theater screens, it is also important as it is one of the most successful and enduring independent films ever made. Launching a franchise that includes eight films and has generated nearly a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre introduced the world to Leatherface, a horror icon at the same level as Freddy, Jason, and Michael.
Hooper’s work not only created long-lasting and impactful horror films, his movies were the foundation and inspiration for countless people who followed. They are movies that challenge viewers, that bring families closer together, that make us remember why we love horror in the first place. I know that I still get the chills every time I hear that iconic photograph flash sound go off, just as I say to myself, “This house is clean,” after tidying up around my place.
We all know that horror rarely gets the recognition it deserves, although last night’s victories for Get Out and The Shape of Water are tremendous accomplishments, so this omission definitely stings. What many of us saw is that horror gets no recognition in life nor does it in death, which is a heartbreaking thing to imagine. Obviously, this was assuaged by the inclusion of George A. Romero, a man whom Jordan Peele, now an Academy Award winner, credited as having “started it.”
Again, this letter comes not out of anger but out of hope. I can only speak for myself when I say this, but I forgive the lack of inclusion of Tobe Hooper, as well as several others that weren’t present in the In Memoriam reel. I know that you are bound to time restraints the same way as any other televised event. I just hope that next year you’ll find some sort of situation in which no one gets left out of such an emotional and powerful segment.