A true Master of Horror that can easily sit beside the likes of John Carpenter and Wes Craven. Aaron and David watched 10 of his films over the course of two weeks. We watched a seminal work of art, a lesser seen horror and one of his, and the world's weirdest science fiction horrors to grace the screen.
While the two of us watched whatever we could get our hands on, our goal is to always watch three of the same films together in order to create a deeper discussion. Check out our complete LETTERBOXD for everything that we watched as well as our pick for the Must-See Tobe Hooper flick.
These are the films we saw.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
It starts off as something of an ASMR worst nightmare. The heightened, unnerving sounds of shuffling earth, creaking wood, and flashing bulbs envelop the dark screen before we even know what to expect. Coupled with the ominous text that shrouds the film in its own curated mythology provide more context for a fictionalized film than most horror movies care to offer. Although it garnered much of its influence from serial murderer Ed Gein, it harnessed its own "true story" reputation with an almost documentarian like approach to film making.
What the movie turns out to be is a hot, sweaty, southern nightmare. In any true Texas purgatory, there are wandering drunks, slaughter house talk, homemade barbecue and those hitchhikers that you know just shouldn't be picked up.
Our film follows Sally and Franklin as they take a gaggle of their friends on a quest through their old family homestead. One by one we find our tragic teens fall prey to the lumbering figure in an adjacent mystery house. Hooper's voyeuristic camera creeps behind our victims as they move closer and closer to the demise. But it's not until that sliding metal door slams shut that you get a sense of real terror and dread that are soon to follow. It's a sick and twisted and perverse crash course of revitalizing the horror genre. Hooper takes the freak flag of THE HILLS HAVE EYES and waves it proudly atop the traditional haunted house and states; A new sub genre is born.
Hooper leaves us with that one iconic final shot of a blood soaked Sally Hardesty screaming the back of a pickup truck. A singular shot that captures fear, elation, and psychosis all at once. It also captured a very important moment in the history of the horror genre; The First Final Girl.
There's a little too much lead-up to mild horrors and not enough story to provoke anything all that engaging. And as for a movie titled, FUNHOUSE, I was hoping for a real pre-SAW level of agonizing, teenage, carnie-folk terror. There's really just a mutant in a mask. A decent mask, but a mask can only get you so far especially when you accompany it with a primal, ear-piercing, not so frightening shriek. It's a decent setup to what could have been much more. Although, Kevin Conroy is a real standout as he takes on all three circus barkers.
It's a movie of pure insanity unlike any Hooper film before or after it. A Cannon logo. A rousing adventurous Henry Mancini score. Amazing John Dykstra effects. Steve Railsback giving it everything he's got. A bloody Jean-Luc Picard. And overly ambitious beyond belief.
In the Halley's comet craze of mid 1980's, LIFEFORCE, alongside NIGHT OF THE COMET, jumped on all of the amazing science fiction goodness that can come from a once in a century comet sighting. Where NIGHT OF THE COMET showed us the dehydrated, mass homicidal effects on Earth, LIFEFORCE started in outer space with a naked woman, returned to Earth with an energy sucking alien and turned the world into a part vampire, part zombie WWIII apocalypse... thing.
It's insanely bonkers and does not follow any sort of rhyme, reason or story structure. But that's kind of the charm behind it. This feels like Hooper stepping out of his comfort zone and really striving to see just what the big deep pockets of Golan-Globus could offer. It's a bit messy and convoluted and crazy but that just kind of makes it all the more interesting.
The two of us watched 6 other Hooper films as well as his 10 min directorial debut short. Check out the entire list on LETTERBOXD.