Horror for the Weekend: Tobe Hooper Edition

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Another weekend is upon us, and this Saturday is legendary horror director Tobe Hooper’s birthday. To celebrate, we’re going to make a few suggestions for your weekend viewing. We know you’ve all seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergiest, probably multiple times – so we’re going to suggest a few of his lesser known works. Let’s kick off with 1981’s The Funhouse.

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The film’s plot concerns four teenagers who become trapped in a dark ride at a local carnival and are stalked by a deformed killer. The film was unsuccessfully prosecuted as a video nasty a few years after its release. Some commentators have questioned its attempted banning, given that the film is fairly tame in comparison to other entries on the list, leading some to suggest it was mistakenly chosen instead of the infamous Last House on Dead End Street, which was released under an alternative title The Fun House and oddly didn’t appear on the list. It was passed uncut for video in 1987 and latterly for DVD with a 15 certificate. Aside from it’s interesting censorship history, The Funhouse is a classic of 80s horror that we’d urge to you check out.

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Another 80s classic from Hooper is Invaders from Mars, a remake of the 1953 science fiction film of the same name. Elaborate creature and visual effects for this remake were supplied by Stan Winston and John Dykstra, and it’s worth checking out for that alone. A boy tries to stop an invasion of his town by aliens who take over the the minds of his parents, his least-liked schoolteacher and other townspeople. With the aid of the school nurse the boy enlists the aid of the U.S. Marines. The film is not fantastic, but the ingenuity of the effects is what makes it worthwhile. For example, the Martian drones were performed by two people back-to-back in one suit. A little person was carried in a sort of backpack on the back of a normal-sized performer. The little person would operate the drone’s mouth and smaller arms (as seen when the drones load their weapons) while the full-sized performer made the creature walk and used ski poles to move the longer arms (as seen when the drones “salute” Mrs. McKeltch). The taller performer faced the rear of the suit and had to walk backwards so that the creature’s knee joints would bend in a “not-human” fashion when it walked. It’s a classic of the pre-CGI age!

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I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for horror anthologies. They feel like watching a live action version of a golden age horror comic, and I’m probably more forgiving of anthology than any other horror sub-genre. 1993’s Body Bags, is an example of a very good anthology though. It’s kind of a ‘spot the cameo’ type of experience, with appearances from Hooper himself, and John Carpenter (both of whom directed), as well as Sam Raimi and Robert Englund. It features three stories, The Gas Station, Hair and Eye. There’s sentient hair, eye gouging, Halloween references and lots of other fun stuff going on. Highly recommended!

Happy Birthday Tobe Hooper!

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