top of page


It’s a sad fact of life that as we gallop through the years, many of our heroes and oldest serving bastions of genre cinema are being lost to us. It’s been almost exactly two years that Wes Craven passed away, and George Romero departed not much more than a month ago. Now we’ve just had the sad news that Tobe Hooper has also died from natural causes.

Although the famed director’s last film was back in 2013, his reputation and indelible influence on horror cinema has never diminished in stature and certainly can’t be underestimated. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” alone terrified a generation and stamped itself on modern culture in a way that only mega-budgeted Hollywood blockbusters have been able to do since. It’s a sad coincidence that a modern prequel based on the iconic character of that film (“Leatherface”) is now just premiering as we write this article, but that also points to the impact that he made. How many other 43-year old films constantly inspire reinvention and new interpretations?

This writer has fond memories of seeing Hooper being interviewed in person at London Frightfest in 2010. A softly spoken and humble man who was honest, and yet still entirely baffled by the negative reactions and censorship that “Chainsaw” had originally caused (especially in the UK). This fondness has been echoed in many of the tributes from the industry, from people like John Carpenter, Stephen King and Edgar Wright. These are fellow nightmare-makers who have acknowledged his influence on their lives, and have sung his praises on social media.

He was a talented filmmaker who was too often underestimated by Hollywood and never really got the recognition in the mainstream that he deserved. Nevertheless, genre fans were devastated by the news of his demise and all film sites reported it with the appropriate gravitas.

So here we reflect on 8 films and 2 TV excursions, where Tobe Hooper produced something special and rocked our world. Some are classics, some are guilty pleasures, but all are memorable and we’ll probably never see the like of them again. R.I.P. Tobe Hooper, you will be missed.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Released in 1974

Unlike many directors, Hooper’s first major theatrical film was arguably his best and became the benchmark for which he was measured by for the rest of his life. It was actually his third production after the short film “The Heisters” and the experimental film “Eggshells”, but TCM was a cathartic and exemplary project born of many ideas. The plot was partially inspired by the cannibal crimes of the notorious killer Ed Gein, and partly a response to the strong feelings invoked by many regarding Watergate and Vietnam. The behind-the-scenes stories about the funding and production are legion, and endlessly documented in various forms. But we’ll just concentrate on the important stuff….

A gang of naïve teenagers visit their old family homestead in the middle of nowhere. They unfortunately stumble upon a family of misfits who prey on lost travellers, and even eat their flesh. The hulking and simple-minded “Leatherface” (so called because he wears a mask made from the skin of his victims) is the most threatening of the family, mainly because he carries a dirty great chainsaw … and he’s not afraid to use it.

Nowhere near as blood-spattered as its reputation has it (especially in Britain where it was censored and marked as a video nasty for years), this was (and still is) an unnerving classic of the genre. There’s a fierceness and uncompromising attitude that you rarely find in cinema today. From the nasty opening (accompanied by the weird camera-flash whine) with corpses perched atop gravestones, to the charnel house imagery, to the no-one-is-safe narrative (a paraplegic is mercilessly sawed to death!), to the disturbing ending, it’s just quintessential horror.

“Leatherface” became arguably the first pop-culture boogeyman of genre cinema, and umpteen sequels and