Saying Goodbye to Tobe Hooper
You know the old horror cliche’ of running out of gas in the middle of nowhere and having to hoof it to the nearest house to ask about a ride to the station, or use of the telephone? In 1974 it wasn’t a cliche’. It was very often a reality.
A gasoline shortage had folks qeueing their cars farther than one could see, hoping, praying, gambling they would make it before the supplies were exhausted, or before their car died, or before someone else’s did, and blocked you in.
Gasoline wasn’t something you trifled around with, son. You’d best treat it like gold until the politicos sorted out the whole mess. If, in your foolish, youthful hubris, you should behave like gas and life are forever, you stand to be quickly and rightfully disabused of this sinful notion.
This might have been the lesson -or one of many- taught by the one and only The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Tobe Hooper saw the layers of inherent horror in the above scenario. His TCM narrative is one, at its core, of de-evolution. We have come to depend on petroleum, and this dependence makes the hapless teens of TCM vulnerable to the predations of a family isolated from much of civilization and education. And modern morality. These people in turn, are so dependent on the industrialization of flesh as food; a commodity, that humans are now just another variety of meat to them.
If that’s not biting and pertinent; if it’s not reflective of human nature, I’d like to know what is.
With his take on Salem’s Lot, we got the best King adaptation to that time, (and for a long time after) the scariest TV movie of the time, and the kind of film we like to brag to our friends about how much it scared our younger selves.
Invaders From Mars took standard 50s sci-fi hokum and made it a bizarre nightmare. I recall being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of practical effects in this movie; certainly more than one can process in a single viewing.
Life Force was a similar spectacle, but with Hooper’s sick humor more apparent.
Eaten Alive, a.k.a. Legend of The Bayou, seems to have been too absurd for its own good, but then again, I was very young when I saw it. Something else for the re-view list.
In interviews, Hooper was introspective, soft-spoken, honest. It is said he would catch insects and gently release them outside rather than kill them.
I see this in his eagerness to force the horrors of cruelty to animals, and to each other, on the audience in his work. I see it and I aspire to it.
Thanks, Tobe Hooper. We could sure use a lot more like you.