Tobe Hooper, director of horror classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist, has died at the age of 74, reports Variety. According to the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office, Hooper died of natural causes on Saturday, in Sherman Oaks, California. He is survived by one son.
Hooper was born Willard Tobe Hooper on January 25, 1943 in Austin, Texas to Lois Belle and Norman William Ray Hooper. His father owned a movie theater in San Angelo and his interest in filmmaking began at the age of 9, when he started using his father’s 8mm camera. Hooper later enrolled at the University of Texas in Austin, taking Radio-Television-Film classes and studying drama in Dallas.
He spent his twenties in the 1960s as a a college professor and documentary cameraman. It wasn’t until 1974 when he was given the chance to make the film he is easily most-known for: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The now legendary and groundbreaking horror flick was made for less than $300,000. The film was actually banned in several countries, deemed too controversial and violent, and was not received well by critics at the time. It took several years before the film gained the acclaim it garners today.
“I had never seen anything like it and I wanted to see it myself,” Hooper said of the film in 2014. “That was a driving force and my ability to pull the energy up out of myself to work that damn hard as I wanted to see it, the movie, I mean, as a finished picture. The energies are making a decision at a point.”
The movie’s villain, Leatherface, was loosely inspired by real-life serial killer Ed Gein. Texas Chain Saw Massacre was one of the most profitable indie films of the ’70s in America, grossing $30.8 million.
Hooper later got involved in the 1979 miniseries Salem’s Lot, based on the novel by Stephen King. It’s considered by fans to be a high-point in television horror. The program was ended up being re-edited and released theatrically in Europe.
The 1982 film Poltergeist, which Hooper also directed from a script by Steven Spielberg, turned out to be another classic entry in the horror genre.
Hooper directed the sequel to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1986, which was then followed up with a remake in 2003. Since then, there have been a number of spin-offs, including the announcement of a prequel. Tobe Hooper’s death comes only a month after the death of fellow horror filmmaker, George Romero.
Update: This post was updated to correct the spelling of the director’s first name as “Willard” and to correct that Hooper was survived by one son.