Sunday, August 27, 2017

A note on Tobe Hooper (1943-2017)

Longtime readers will remember my friend Wendigo as a vampire movie fan, and a fan of horror movies in general. One Halloween back in the 1990s I was going to spend the night at his house and wanted to entertain him with horror films he hadn't seen. As it turned out, neither he nor I had seen The Texas Chain-Saw Massacre at that time, and the local public library happened to have a copy. Afterward, he told me he never wanted to see that film again -- not because it wasn't good, but just because ...And that was while acknowledging that there was no real gore to speak of in Hooper's seminal film. It just had an unprecedented brutality, best illustrated by the suddenness in one scene with which Leatherface appears, bops a victim over the head, and drags the doomed one away to some terrible fate. To be fair, Wendigo could do without the one girl screaming all the time, but that was in keeping with the overall tone of the film. As a vampire fan, my friend is more appreciative of Hooper's Salem's Lot miniseries, and even of his Space Vampires-derived bit of craziness, Lifeforce. But neither he nor anyone else can deny that Texas Chain-Saw is Hooper's ticket to a place in cinema history. And now that he and George Romero have died in one summer, we sincerely urge John Carpenter to look after his health.


knobgobbler said...

I first saw TCM at a midnight show, long after it had become legendary... and after I'd devoured as much horror as I could find at the local video store. And it still managed to shock me. As you say, it's not gory... but it is fucking gruesome... and by the climactic dinner scene I was asking myself how they could have gotten away with making such a thing and shown it in legit theaters.
My friend's pregnant wife, also a horror fan, had to leave the theater, fearing the movie was upsetting her too much for the good of her fetus.
So many films tried to match it later on but never quite hit the same notes IMO. Usually later attempts try to beef it up with more gore and end up releasing all the tension. Also, TCM seems like such a nihilistic piece of work compared to a lot of horror being comparatively moralistic and, in the end, reassuring.

Samuel Wilson said...

Thanks for commenting. I get the same vibe from Last House on the Left, which I've never dared show Wendigo. Early Seventies nihilism may just be inimitable.