TOBE HOOPER: DIRECTING FOR THRILLS
"Fascination and thrills in a safe experience" is what Tobe Hooper, director of MGM's supernatural thriller, "Poltergeist," believes motion picture audiences look for at the movies. "There is a curiosity in the unusual," he said, "and a chance to experience something vicariously that they might not ordinarily get to do. The movies - and our movie is a great example - give people the chance to experience something quiet fantastic in a very safe way.
"'Poltergeist'" he added "is best described like one of those sensational new rollercoasters - Montezuma's Revenge or The Corkscrew. It'll send you up and down. It is scary, frightening and terrifying, but it winds up being very kind to you in a way that transcends the movie. There are no murders, no blood. It is like those little packages of Chinese firecrackers that explode in little crackles and scare people for a moment but ultimately make everybody happy."
Hooper's whimsical reference hints at the personality behind the man who brought you "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and the television version of Stephen King's bestseller "Salem's Lot." His reputation ranks him high on the list of top directors in the horror/terror genre. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is part of the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art, in New York, and Hooper's place in film history is assured.
One of the most controversial films ever made, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is actually tame when compared to more recent films of the horror terror genre. But Hooper's achievement with "Chainsaw," was not merely the creation of a terrifying story, but the creation of a nightmare from which you cannot wake up. It is both terrifying and believable and that, most critics agree, is why the movie is a classic. "Every time we think it can't get worse, it does get worse –– a supremely bum trip that will not stop," wrote San Francisco writer Michael Goodwin, "There is no relief, and that's interesting –– simply because no one has ever done it before."
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is one of Steven Spielberg's favorite films and that is a major reason why he selected Hooper to direct "Poltergeist" for him.
But his reputation as a master of horror films overshadows another side of Tobe Hooper, the side that longs to direct a comedy or a drama.
"Horror movies have been good to me and I like to make them but since "'Chainsaw'" I haven't had the chance to work with other material," he explained. "My first films were comedies. I once did a short, called "The Heisters" which was a comedy and that gave me great pleasure."
I love to hear the sound of six hundred people laughing," he smiled, "I seldom see my own movies with an audience but I have heard them scream. I like to hear them laugh, too."
A native of Austin, Texas, Hooper was almost born in a movie theatre when his mother went into labor with him while watching a movie. When his father, who owned motor courts, and who coined the word "motel" with a friend, bought a block of businesses in St. Angelo, Texas, the deal included a movie theatre which became Hooper's babysitter and the place where he spent the better part of his youth watching the world go by at twenty-four frames a second.
It's been a good five years since Hooper left Texas but he didn't leave his penchant for hot foods behind. Jalapeno peppers powered him during the long days on the set and Indian curries are a favorite when time permits. The hotter the better, he says. In fact his favorite is exotic ten star curry, a dish so ferociously hot that it reportedly is known to make grown-ups cry.
His passion for culinary delights matches his passion on film. You feel hot foods. You experience them. They are more than just eating. "I love the heat. It makes you sweat," he said, "It'll open your pores and let you know that your body is working."
His movies are a lot like that. You don't just watch them, you experience them.
MGM's "Poltergeist" is a Steven Spielberg Production of a Tobe Hooper film. The screenplay was written by Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais & Mark Victor based on a story by Steven Spielberg. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall, directed by Tobe Hooper, the film is being released in the United States and Canada by MGM/United Artists Distribution and Marketing.
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