10 Insane But Brilliant Tobe Hooper’s Horror Movies – Explored In Detail – God Of Horror Movies

    When Tobe Hooper, an American director, screenwriter, and producer, died in 2017, several Hollywood filmmakers and celebrities paid poignant condolences to the late horror icon on social media. ‘Goodbye Tobe Hooper, the king of transgressive horror,’ commented famed director, producer, and screenwriter Scott Derrickson in a tweet among the sea of followers Hooper had.

    To be honest, this is exactly how Tobe Hooper should be remembered for leaving behind a rich legacy of some of the most memorable horror films. You could not deny that when he directed and produced the 1974 slasher film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, he literally took the globe by storm.

    His contribution to the film was very crucial, and it remains one of the eeriest films ever made to this day. The mere mention of the film is enough to send shivers down one’s spine – this is the type of art we are talking about!

    To all Tobe Hooper lovers out there, get ready for today’s video, in which we will take a look at ten of the legend’s best horror films that are still as horrifying as ever.

    Invaders from Mars (1986)

    Invaders from Mars (1986)

    12-year-old David Gardner wakes up to a nightmare in his own backyard when he witnesses an alien spaceship landing there. However, no one listens to him or even believes him for that matter. In the next few days, he soon realizes that the people around him are changing and that includes his own parents, his classmate Heather as well as his teacher Mrs. McKeltch.

    All of them have this unexplained mark at the back of their necks. Post following his teacher to a cave in Copper Hill, the place where David had initially seen the spacecraft landing, he is shocked to find out that there is an alien ship there for real.

    In fact, the aliens have been controlling the townspeople having inserted brain implants through the necks. Teaming up with the only person that believes David, the school nurse Linda, the duo seeks out the help of the U. S. Marines to stop the aliens from taking over the town.

    This might come as a shock to you but producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus of Cannon Films simply hated the final movie and they actually thought that Hooper had misled them. But in spite of being a commercial and critical failure, the movie became a cult classic eventually.

    Boasting a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby, this 1986 science fiction horror flick happens to be a remake of the 1953 movie, also known as Invaders from Mars. Of course, there is a bit of re-invention and updating in terms of the storyline. Mind you, the whole movie is actually taking inside the mind of a young boy, one who has quite the imagination so it isn’t really a serious film and therefore should not be watched from that perspective at all.

    It goes without saying that the special effects featured here are the highlight of the movie and we have the late Stan Winston to give full credit to who by the way worked on this film along with James Cameron’s Aliens both at the same time. Winston wanted to create an alien invader that did not really look like a man in some suit so that’s when he came up with the idea of putting a small person on the back of a big person to stand and walk backward.

    As a result, this gave the viewers a rather interesting, non-human silhouette. Speaking of the cast, Hunter Carson who portrayed the role of David Gardner happens to be the real-life son of Karen Black or should we address her as the school nurse, Linda Magnuson, to be more precise? The chemistry between them was nothing short of perfect.

    Also, it was a sheer delight to watch Louise Fletcher essaying the character of Mrs. McKeltch in the movie, especially her famous dialogue, ‘You have got a lot of nerve, sister!’.

    We have Daniel Pearl to give credit to for his amazing work of cinematography. Add to this Christopher Young and Dave Storrs’ brilliant background score and there, you have a classic already. Just make yourself some popcorn at home and enjoy the movie. You are bound to have a great time!

    Poltergeist (1982)

    Poltergeist (1982)

    The Freelings are a suburban family of five members dwelling in a California-planned community. Everything is great in the beginning until weird and inexplicable things begin to occur in the house. Utensils start bending and breaking by themselves, furniture begins to move on its own and the youngest daughter of the family, Carol Anne starts sleepwalking and talking with the television set while it has a post-broadcast static on display.

    Things take an ugly turn when a tree outside the children’s bedroom window comes alive and goes to the extent of not only crashing through the window but also grabbing one of the children. The horror does not end there; Carol Anne also gets sucked through a portal in her bedroom closet and she is heard communicating with them through the tv set. The family is left with no other choice but to call in a team of parapsychologists to help them out.

    From becoming the eighth highest-earning film of 1982, Hooper’s Poltergeist boasting a story by Steven Spielberg and a screenplay by the terrific trio of Spielberg, Michael Grais and Mark Victor was both a commercial as well as critical success. From being nominated for three Oscars specifically in categories of visual effects, sound effects editing and music, this supernatural horror movie was also listed as the 20th scariest film ever to be made by the Chicago Film Critics Association.

    The solitary fact that the movie kind of playing on the fears of the traditional haunted house genre, actually made things work out in its favor. We have a cast that is solid and believable and let’s not dare miss out on the dialogue deliveries that are still bound to send chills down the spine. There’s one in particular that still has its effect. We are particularly stressing on Carol Anne’s “They are here” and it goes without saying that her performance was impeccable.

    In fact, both Spielberg and Hooper wanted actors who were virtually unknown to play the role of the Freelings. The duo was of the same belief that if they had on board known faces, it would simply take away the sense of realism that they wanted to add to the characters.

    Also, here’s an interesting trivia that might actually shock you. There’s a famous swimming pool scene in the movie where the character of Diane Freeling gets trapped amidst a multitude of skeletal bodies. Well, those skeletons were very much real and actor JoBeth Williams had not even the slightest bit of an idea till she was done shooting the scene.

    Celebrated music composer, the late Jerry Goldsmith was undoubtedly at one of his best moments when he composed the impeccable background score of the movie. Everything about his organized mystical themes, the uneven orchestral brass woodwind to that outstanding chorus was worthy of an Oscar win and one can only wonder why it did not in the first place!

    The special effects by Industrial Light and Magic and overseen by Richard Edlund made the movie such a feast; no wonder it won the BAFTA Award for that. Of course, Poltergeist is a horror classic, and while many believe that it was Spielberg who directed most of the movie, the question of who the director really still remained a matter of debate to date.

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

    Sally Hardesty is on her way to her grandfather’s grave in Texas along with her paraplegic brother Franklin and three of their other friends to probe deeper into matters related to grave desecration and robbing.

    The group makes the mistake of giving a ride to a hitchhiker, who is outrageously bizarre. He takes a picture of Franklin, asks for money from them for the picture that he took and when they refuse to pay him, he burns the polaroid image and goes to the extent of even cutting the arm of Franklin with a straight razor.

    After the teens manage to kick him out of the van, they think they are safe but the group makes the severe mistake of crossing their paths with a family of cannibals. Amongst the psychopaths is one with a penchant for wearing a facial mask made out of human skin and killing his victims with a chainsaw.

    Well, if there is this one movie that Tobe Hooper will always be remembered for, then it irrefutably has to be his 1974 slasher flick, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. When it comes to the storyline, it is actually pretty simple but it is the psychological terror of the movie that plunges its viewers into a never-ending nightmare.

    The fact that both the terror and violence factor here has not been compromised a single bit is the real reason behind this movie getting banned in several countries at different points in time. Boasting a screenplay by Hooper and Kim Henkel, the former is reported to have had the idea for the flick while he was out shopping for Christmas.

    Hooper was standing in the hardware section of a store that was packed with people and was actually thinking of a way to somehow get out of the crowd when he caught the attention of a few chainsaws there on display. Who would have thought, right? Well, now we know what inspired Hooper to come up with a masterpiece like this and it is a given thing that there was no stopping Leatherface from becoming a horror icon.

    The amount of tension that his character generates can be a little overwhelming at times but that’s what keeps you driven to the edge of your seats and your eyes glued to the screen. The ending scene featuring the frustrating dance of Leatherface swinging his chainsaw up in the air is still capable of scaring the living daylights out of you and it does not matter if the current year is 2021 and the year this movie was released was 1974.

    It still has its impressive effects. Daniel Pearl’s exceptional work of cinematography deserves a definite mention. Well, if you are someone who still has not seen the movie and wants to give it a shot, please go ahead but do not blame us if your nightmares get dominated by that unsettling sound of the chainsaw. That’s bound to happen!

    The Funhouse (1981)

    The Funhouse (1981)

    Much against her father’s wishes, Amy goes to a traveling carnival with Buzz, Liz, and Richie. The teenagers have a lot of fun smoking pot, jibing at the fortune teller, peeping into an adult strip show, and also visiting a freak show.

    Soon, Richie dares his friends to spend the night inside the funhouse and everybody agrees thinking it will be fun and exciting. But the group accidentally witnesses the violent murder of the fortune teller by a man donning a Frankenstein’s Monster mask.

    With the group trying to escape from there, not only do they find themselves locked inside but also catch the attention of the masked killer, who is in reality is a horribly disfigured man with piercing, protruding teeth, and fiery ruby-red eyes. 

    You will be surprised to know that Steven Spielberg had actually asked Tobe Hooper to direct his 1982 sci-fi movie, E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial but Hooper turned down his offer simply because he had already occupied himself with The Funhouse by then.

    Released by Universal Pictures, this slasher flick here was Hooper’s first big studio production post-1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and 1976 Eaten Alive. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this movie to be similar to the other slasher flicks of the 80s. It is a lot more clever than most of its type, one with a fascinating storyline and an undeniably claustrophobic finale.

    Backed by Larry Block’s screenplay, Hooper managed to immerse his viewers into an underworld of dread and wickedness. We have a cast giving a power-packed performance; for starters, Elizabeth Berridge not only made her debut with the movie but was also spectacular portraying the role of Amy Harper.

    It would be a cardinal sin to miss out on Kevin Convey, who deserves a definite mention for playing the role of all three barkers – the freak show barker, the funhouse barker as well as the strip show barker.

    Do not miss out on John Beal’s background score in the movie; after all, it is the dramatic and moody music that gives life to the film, making it rich in terms of color, the sinister setting and tension. There’s a reason why this flick is often regarded as the sister film to Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre but then we will leave that to you to figure out why. We highly recommend you to watch this one here!

    The Mangler (1995)

    The Mangler (1995)

    Based on Stephen King’s 1972 short story also called The Mangler, the storyline of this 1995 horror flick centers around a demonically possessed laundry machine who has developed a certain taste for humans. Police officer John Hunton and his demonologist brother-in-law, Mark Jackson, are called in to probe deeper into the matter.

    The duo comes in contact with the owner of the laundry factory, Bill Gartley, and soon realize that there’s a lot more about him than meets the eye.

    While there’s no denying that the movie is a Stephen King short story adaptation, The Mangler turned out to be a box office bomb, receiving negative critical reception.

    Given the high and low phases that Hooper had in his career, a rather significant chunk of his later work suffered either due to shoestring budgets or say working along the lines of the same old horror cliches, at times preposterous concepts.

    No wonder, this 1995 movie easily made it to the list of Hooper’s most maligned works. But having said that, it was the ensemble cast that the movie featured that eventually made this film a cult classic.

    We are particularly talking about Robert Englund essaying the role of Bill Gartley and Ted Levine as Officer John Hunton. You just cannot miss out on Englund’s metal leg braces and those mangler inflicted giant scars or even Levine’s frustrated cop performance for that matter.

    God, both of them were absolutely terrific! As for the rest of the characters, they were quite well drawn. The screenplay by Hooper, Stephen David Brooks, and Peter Welbeck works out in favor of the movie, breathing life to the characters that were initially created by King for his short story.

    Bursting with copious amounts of gore, the flick is nothing short of a treat to all the gore-hounds out there. Just add to this Barrington Pheloung’s musical score and the exceptional visual effects featured and what you have in front of you is a solid horror movie.

    Just do us a favor; when you watch this film, keep an open mind, take it as it comes and please do not make the mistake of comparing this flick with Hooper’s best work. Who knows, you might actually end up loving this unsung little gem here. The fact that nobody actually remembers this movie because of its limited release, has made this film earn the title, ‘the forgotten King film’.

    Lifeforce (1985)

    Lifeforce (1985)

    A joint British and American space shuttle that Colonel Tom Carlsen has been in charge of discovers a hidden spaceship at the tail of Halley’s comet. The crew enters the alien spacecraft only to find countless shriveled creatures that look like bats and three humanoid bodies with nothing on in suspended animation inside glass containers.

    The crew brings the bodies along with a bat alien back to their space shuttle, Churchill. But during their return journey back to Earth, contact with the shuttle is lost and a rescue mission is sent to find out what happened aboard. Churchill is found completely burnt, the crew dead, one of the escape pods missing and strangely the containers that have the humanoids perfectly intact.

    They are brought to earth, to the European Space Research Centre in London to be more precise. But all hell breaks loose when the female alien wakes up and escapes from the facility, not only draining the life force out of the people that she encounters but also turning them into zombies in the process.

    Meanwhile, Colonel Tom Carlsen having managed to survive somehow realizes what has occurred and he joins hands with Colonel Colin Caine to save what’s left of humanity from the shape-shifting space vampires!

    Based on the 1976 sci-fi horror novel of Colin Wilson called The Space Vampires, Hooper’s Lifeforce is flashy and way over the top. Some would even call this film insane given the exaggerated direction of Hooper but then again that’s what makes the movie so good.

    In case, you are forgetting, it is a Cannon Films production and you cannot expect anything less here! Backed by a script by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby, the movie features a fittingly bombastic background score by Henry Mancini. Those, who have watched the movie might say it is the strangest, most ludicrous film they have ever seen but you can’t deny that it is also quite mysteriously compelling and there’s never a dull moment in it.

    True that Lifeforce did garner a lot of negative reviews and was a box office failure, but did that really stop it from eventually becoming a cult film? We all know the answer to that! So, coming to the storyline here, the movie features an alien spacecraft, one that is loaded with bats. Next, there is a naked space vampire on the loose, one that loves to suck out the life force of people.

    Then, there’s shape-shifting, bodies getting exploded, and let’s not forget the movie has zombies! What more can one want? Please don’t miss out on this underrated gem here, it probably has one of the best special effects on display given the 80s time period. But that’s for you to decide and tell us all about it in our comments section!

    Salem’s Lot (1979)

    Salem’s Lot (1979)

    Ben Mears is a successful author who has come back to his hometown in Maine post a rather long absence. Mears has plans of writing a new novel about the old, haunted property of Marsten House, situated on top of a hill of Salem’s Lot. Given the rich history, the haunted as well as the tragic stories associated with the house, Mears decides to rent it but is surprised to discover that the property has already been taken by a certain Richard Straker, who wants to open an antique store along with his partner Kurt Barlow.

    While Barlow is often mentioned, he has never been seen by anyone. Well, eventually people of the town either start vanishing or meet their deaths under some pretty weird circumstances. It does not take Mears much time to understand that Straker’s partner is a vampire, the one who is also accountable for the curse that plagues his hometown. Mears teams up with Mark Petrie, a local horror film buff to unravel the truth.

    Also known as Salem’s Lot: The Movie, Salem’s Lot: The Miniseries and Blood Thirst, Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot happens to be a miniseries television adaptation of King’s 1975 horror novel. You’d be surprised to know that it was George A. Romero who was initially offered to direct a feature film version but post-John Badham’s 1979 Dracula and Werner Herzog’s 1979 Nosferatu the Vampyre, Warner Bros. made up their mind to make Salem’s Lot into a TV mini-series.

    As for Romero, he backed out from the project thinking he would not be able to do justice to the movie given the limitations of television. Screenwriter Paul Monash deserves full credit for the adaptation and for the sole fact that this version is a lot more dramatic than its novel counterpart.

    Producer Richard Kobritz wanted Hooper as the director post the very screening of the celebrated The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. As for Hooper, he simply knew what he wanted to do with Salem’s Lot and also stay true to King’s novel at the same time. So, there is a particular scene that has child vampires floating outside the windows of their victims.

    Hooper shot the whole sequence in reverse to give it a spookier effect. As for the actors, none of them were suspended on any wires; they all performed on a boom crane. Hooper effortlessly manages to suck his audience into a threatening creepiness way before the real horror even begins and it is the atmosphere that he creates that makes this movie. In short, t6his exciting tale of suspense and dread is a must-watch!

    Eaten Alive (1976)

    Eaten Alive (1976)

    Whoever has made their way towards the dilapidated Starlight Hotel has never really been able to come out of there alive. If you are wondering what the reason is, it is because of the hotel’s mentally unhinged owner, Judd, who happens to have a giant Nile crocodile as a pet and will feed literally anyone who upsets him.

    The hungry beast lives in the swamp right beside the hotel and will dig its teeth into anything fleshy and moving that enters the remote swampland.

    It is often said that the plotline of this 1976 horror flick was loosely based on the real-life story of Joe Ball. Also known as the Alligator Man, Ball was the owner of a bar in South Texas, one who was reported to have had a live alligator attraction. Plenty of women was apparently killed by Ball and if we are to believe the legend, it is said that Ball would get rid of the bodies of his victims by feeding them to his toothy pets.

    While it was never really proved that the flesh that was found in the pit was of a human, Ball did commit suicide at his very bar just before he was about to get arrested by the police on the charges of the murders.

    Boasting a screenplay by Kim Henkel, who by the way was also the co-screenwriter of Hooper’s landmark debut, Chainsaw to be more precise, Eaten Alive had a similar impression that Hooper had left with his predecessor.

    We are stressing on the movie to be a merciless onslaught of sheer madness and dark humor and while it’s true that the flick did share comparable traits, it did receive poor reviews post its release. But having said that, fans of Hooper did take the movie positively. They will agree with us when we tell them that Eaten Alive truly happens to be an overlooked film of Hooper.

    There is some pretty intense work of camera here that has Judd chasing around two women like a maniac around the claustrophobic hotel. The cast received a lot of praise too; especially Neville Brand who essayed the role of Judd. Brand’s acting was creepily believable in spite of his jumbled mumblings.

    The film also marked the debut of horror legend Robert Englund, portraying the role of Buck and one does feel bad for him when he is deliberately pushed into the swamp and treated as a one-course meal. To all the horror fans out there, you just cannot miss out on this one. You just need 91 minutes off your busy schedule to enjoy this.

    Djinn (2013)

    Djinn (2013)

    Hooper’s Emirati supernatural horror movie revolves around a young couple moving into a new apartment after coming back from a trip. But the duo finds out that their fellow neighbors might not even be human in the first place.

    Soon very strange, inexplicable things begin to occur; they start hearing voices and seeing things. The movie also goes back to the time when the high-rise apartment was initially being built in an uninhibited fishing village, which was once home to some malevolent supernatural beings.

    The final directorial act of Hooper ended with this 2013 supernatural flick, one which had quite the foreboding atmosphere. BC Smith did a fantastic job with the background scorekeeping the element of dread and horror intact.

    We agree that the storyline may have been predictable and to be a little honest here, it is quite surprising for fans of Hooper given the kind of movies he has directed in the past but we cannot really disagree on the fact that he did create an intense environment – the kind that will keep you right at the edge of your seat. Boasting a script by David Tully, the movie has a good cast, especially the leading two. They are believable and that is what matters.

    The language could have been a little more consistent since the sudden transitions from Arabic to English and vice versa get a little too overwhelming at times. But there are also pros of the movie – the whole idea of a UAE setting blends absorbing cultural elements with a well-used horror recipe. Also, it is kind of rejuvenating to watch a movie that is a little different and Hooper’s Djinn delivers quite a few scares that are bound to leave an impression on you.

    In case you are wondering, what are the highlights of the movie, the scary sequences definitely make it to the list. For instance, the scene that had the baby with the black eyes, the hallway scene where the lights start flickering and going out one after the other – oh there’s plenty of such scenes that are categorically the strongest points of the film here.

    While it certainly isn’t the best of Hooper’s works, it is undoubtedly worth watching. So, if you are someone who hasn’t watched it, we suggest you not to judge this movie by its rating but to give it a shot for sure.

    Toolbox Murders (2004)

    Toolbox Murders (2004)

    Couple Nell and Steven move as new tenants into Lusman Arms, previously a Hollywood luxury hotel that’s undergoing some major renovations. With Steven being a medical intern, his working hours are long enough to make Nell feel left alone for the major part of the day.

    Soon, she makes friends with a few neighbors and gets to know about the history of her new residency. However, as the days pass by, the tenants start vanishing one by one.

    Nell and Steven are oblivious of the fact that the tenants in reality are getting slaughtered by a man donning a balaclava and with a penchant for butchering his victims with his set of carpentry tools.

    This 2004 slasher flick happens to be a remake of the 1978 movie called The Toolbox Murders and you would be surprised to know that the remake was also produced by the very same people who produced the original – Tony DiDio to be specific.  Boasting a run time of 95 minutes and with a budget that is less than a million dollars, Hooper fashioned a new classic horror.

    Mind you, the remake is so much better than the original and it isn’t just a copy-paste, it is what one would like to call a re-imagination. Joseph Conlan’s brilliant musical score works in the favor of this flick here, hitting us at just the right spots. It is only Hooper, who is capable of taking us back to the 80s while in reality, the movie was released way later in 2004.

    As for the storyline, it becomes, even more, captivating the more it unfolds. Toolbox Murders is filled with suspense, has a lot of gore, and in a way unusual, reaffirms his status as the king of transgressive horror. Highly recommend this movie that positively needs to be watched because of the climax. You won’t be disappointed and that’s a fact!

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