Tobe Hooper, perhaps best known for putting Texas on the horror movie map with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, has died at age 74.
The Los Angeles County coroner's office told The Associated Press that Hooper died Saturday in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles. It was reported as a natural death.
Hooper also directed Poltergeist, which was written and produced by Steven Spielberg, and helmed the 1979 TV miniseries Salem's Lot, from Stephen King's novel. But it was the 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre that, as Halloween director John Carpenter put it Sunday, was "a seminal work in horror drama."
Texas Chain Saw Massacre was reportedly shot for less than $300,000. It told the story of a van full of young victims and their grisly encounter with a family of Central Texas cannibals, including the chainsaw-swinging "Leatherface."
The movie, which was banned in several countries, including the United Kingdom, grossed about $10 million in its first week and Hooper's career "took off right away," he told The Dallas Morning News in 2005.
Born in Austin, Hooper took film classes at the University of Texas. In 1973, he organized a small cast of college teachers and students to start work on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It was shot in five weeks in and around Austin that summer.
The movie was selected to the Director's Fortnight of the 1975 Cannes Film Festival and the Permanent Collection at the Museum of Modern Art.
"It then started playing in art houses," Hooper told The News. "It was re-released for about eight years, like first run, and it would always get on the charts and make money."
It didn't endear critics. Roger Ebert said it was "without any apparent purpose unless the creation of disgust and fright is a purpose."
Edwin Neal, a Rowlett resident who played the memorable deranged hitchhiker, Nubbins Sawyer, said he used the opportunity to try out his character when Hooper dropped in at the UT drama department looking for actors for Chain Saw.
"I was mainly trying to wind Hooper up," Neal said. "I really didn't want to be in his cockamamie movie. We read a little bit of the script, so I went up and did my audition. 'Hoop' goes: 'Oh, my God. You're our guy.' "