Tobe Hooper, the horror-movie pioneer whose low-budget sensation The Texas Chain Saw Massacre took a buzz saw to audiences with its brutally frightful vision, has died. He was 74. The Los Angeles County coroner's office on Sunday said Hooper died Saturday in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles. It was reported as a natural death. Along with contemporaries like George Romero and John Carpenter, Hooper crafted some of the scariest nightmares that ever haunted moviegoers, the AP reports. Hooper directed 1982's Poltergeist from a script by Steven Spielberg, and helmed the well-regarded 1979 miniseries Salem's Lot, from Stephen King's novel. Hooper was a little-known filmmaker of documentaries and TV commercials when he made his most famous work: 1974's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
He made it for less than $300,000 in his native Texas, and yet it became one the most influential films in horror: a slasher film landmark. "I had never seen anything like it and I wanted to see it myself," said Hooper in 2014. The film was controversial. Several countries banned it, though the independent film — aided by its gory reputation and lightning fast word-of-mouth — grossed $30.8 million, playing for eight years in drive-ins and theaters. Halloween director John Carpenter on Sunday called it "a seminal work in horror cinema,” while William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, recalled Hooper as "a kind, warm-hearted man who made the most terrifying film ever." Hooper's last film as director was 2013's Djinn, a supernatural thriller set in the United Arab Emirates. (More Texas Chainsaw Massacre stories.)