American director Tobe Hooper began his film career like many people in the field, working on industrial films and TV advertisements. Using student help, Hooper began making fictional films while an instructor at the University of Texas. He exploded onto the public scene in 1974 with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a creepy variation on the unhappy career of cannibalistic killer Ed Gein. Despite its lurid title, the film scored more on the threat of violence than its actual violent content, which was minimal. While critics either condemned the picture or simply refused to review it, the movie became a cult favorite, and within five years of its release it was being written about and analyzed by intellectual film periodicals. But, so far as Hollywood was concerned, Hooper remained on the outside looking in, though his cheaply produced Eaten Alive (1976) and The Funhouse (1981) also had loyal followings. Television was more responsive to him, and he was eventually entrusted with a 1979 TV movie version of Stephen King's Salem's Lot. In 1982, the director was given his first mainstream assignment, the Steven Spielberg-produced Poltergeist (1982). Although a bit too reliant upon special effects for Hooper's taste, it proved his ability to set and sustain an eerie mood and highlighted his cheerful disregard for logic and consistency. Hooper's later output included a 1985 remake of the matinee perennial Invaders From Mars, a mishmash 1986 sequel to Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and the ponderously paced thriller Spontaneous Combustion (1989). To some, Hooper continued to be a "promising" talent during the '90s -- it's just that he promised more than he delivered.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Worked as a professor and film-program assistant director at the University of Texas, as well as a documentary cameraman, before moving into directing.
- Debut feature was the 1974 cult classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which carried a budget of under $85,000, but made more than $30 million.
- Directed episodes of the sci-fi/horror anthology series Tales from the Crypt, Night Visions and Masters of Horror.
- Received the New York City Horror Film Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award and the Philadelphia Film Festival's Phantasmagoria Award, both in 2004.
- In 2011, published the novel Midnight Movie, written with Alan Goldsher, about a character named Tobe Hooper whose long-lost student film, Destiny Express, turns its audience into zombies.