Monday, August 20, 2018

Dear Tobe, Part 2

by Patrick Bromley
We're devoting an entire week to Tobe Hooper as we lead up to our live tribute this Sunday!

It's been a year without you, TH.

This Sunday, August 26th, it will be one year to the day since Tobe Hooper passed away. It was a Saturday that he died, but I didn't learn the news until Sunday morning when Erika woke me up to tell me. That was a hard day. It's the hardest I've ever been affected by the loss of a celebrity or someone I didn't know, which, again, I think has a lot to do with how underappreciated he was in life. It will be sad when someone like Steven Spielberg passes away, because it's (almost) always sad when someone passes away and because it means no more Spielberg in the world. But he's the most celebrated filmmaker maybe ever, and he got to see his work rack up billions and win Oscars and be beloved by everyone on the planet, meaning he can die knowing the effect he had on the lives of millions and on cinema as an art form. I don't know for sure that Tobe Hooper ever got that. Shit, even the stupid Oscars left him out of their "In Memoriam" montage this year. The guy who directed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, one of the best and most influential horror movies ever made, overlooked by the Academy. No fucking respect.
I've spent the year since he passed talking about him every chance I get: writing about his work, recording commentaries for his movies, annoying people on Twitter by bringing him up way too often. Part of that is probably my grieving process (I know it sounds stupid to a lot of you that I would grieve someone I never met, but I don't know what else to call it). Part of that is just me really liking to talk about him and his work. It makes me happy in a way that most other stuff doesn't. Part of it, too, is just my attempt to keep his name in the conversation: to point out what a great filmmaker he is, how valuable his voice was to horror, how so many of his movies were misunderstood in their time but have aged well and deserve to be reevaluated by those who wrote them off. I honestly suspect it's getting old to a lot of people. I wish I could say I'm going to stop, but I just don't see that happening. I'm sorry.

It's this desire to keep talking about him and to keep his name in the mouths of horror fans that made me want to organize the live tribute this Sunday, August 26th. I know the prospect of listening to a group of people praise and discuss a single filmmaker -- in particular one who so many failed to fully appreciate when he was alive -- may not sound the best way for you to spend a Sunday. I get it. But I also hope that you'll tune in and give it a chance, because it will hopefully be a really fun, really cathartic day that will shine an even brighter light on a great filmmaker and celebrate a bunch of cool movies. When I die very soon, my only contribution to the world of film criticism and discussion is that I have gotten a few people to either check out more Tobe Hooper movies or to at least revisit his work with more of an open mind. My incessant championing of him as a filmmaker has hopefully inspired up to 10 people to find a new appreciation for his movies beyond Texas Chain Saw and Poltergeist. That's a legacy I'm ok with.
I've watched his movies more in the last year than probably ever before, beginning with a run through his entire filmography that started about an hour after learning of his death. Revisiting his movies multiple times in just 12 months has brought me closer to him as a filmmaker. The more times I watch them, the more I come to understand what it is about Tobe Hooper and his work that makes him my favorite director. Every viewing is a little private conversation he and I are having, one full of secrets and inside jokes that only the two of us understand. I know this is a crazy way of thinking. (And knowing I'm crazy means I'm not crazy RIGHT?) The movies only get richer and more entertaining each time I watch. Revisiting The Mangler a few days ago was the best viewing of it I've ever had; I just giggled through the first 15 minutes, imagining TH doing the same just off camera as Mrs. Frawley gets sucked into the laundry press while everyone screams and Robert Englund, buried under outrageous old age prosthetics, stomps around throwing a tantrum. I'm not sure everyone understood how funny it all is in 1995, but hopefully in 2018 people can start to notice. If it helps for me to point it out, so be it. I'm happy to keep trying.

I'm still sad all the time about losing TH, for reasons I've talked about in the past: sad that he lived so underappreciated, worked in the shadow of a bullshit controversy, died with more movies in him still left to make. I'm sad that I'll never meet him, never hear his Texas drawl in person, that I'll never get to tell him just how much I love his work and how much it means to me. That last one sounds so stupid, I know, because it seems like I'm making his death about me or that I think for one second that my telling him what a fan I am would be different than any of the thousands of people who said that very same thing to him in his lifetime. It's the height of narcissism to think that my saying it would be different, or even that my thinking it is different. The truth is that it's not. Me telling Tobe Hooper that he's my favorite director and that I obsessively love his movies might make him smile and he would thank me politely, then have the same conversation with the next person waiting to say something similar. But it would mean something to me to say it, and since I won't ever get the chance, this live tribute is the next best thing I can do. Hopefully somewhere, Tobe will be smoking a cigar and drinking a Dr. Pepper and listening, smiling and thanking me politely.
We're getting closer to solidifying the roster of guests for this Sunday's show, but I'm very excited about some of the names that are participating and I know you all will be, too. Stay tuned for the full lineup later this week.
The live tribute begins at 10 am CST this Sunday. I hope you'll all talk it up (#TobeHooperTribute), tune in, and have a great time celebrating a great filmmaker. Grab yourself a six pack of Dr. Pepper and spend the day with us.

I love you, Tobe. This week's for you.


  1. I can't wait for this Sunday, man!

  2. Another wonderful article Patrick and great to see some love for The Mangler, without that movie i probably wouldn't have discovered F This Movie! and taken the deep dive into podcasts... Your passion is truly inspirational! :)

  3. Thank you, Patrick. Because of your constantly stated love for TCM 2 and the release of your commentary track, I stepped beyond TCM and Poltergeist and watched the movie for the first time — and then a second time with a group of friends, and then, a third time with a different group of friends. I couldn’t be more excited to watch it again with your commentary track in my ears, to eventually watch The Funhouse, The Toolbox Murders, Lifeforce, and to watch the tribute on Sunday. I’m sorry I haven’t gotten to those movies sooner, but your heart has moved the three of them from my general watchlist, where they have just been getting smothered by other titles, to a single day on my Scary Movie Month calendar. Thanks for not giving up. I wouldn’t be surprised if more Tobe Hooper films end up charting my October schedule.

  4. Awesome stuff. I've been watching Patrick's commentary tracks - really made me appreciate TCM 2. Man, what a gaudy and wild ride. And I love that final ending scene. Just tops it off. Excited about the Sunday tribute. Also, Patrick, you mentioned you didn't think you could write a book. Mate, you really could and have the skills for it (the main requirement in my experience is TIME). I'd love to see a book by you about Hooper that works its way through his filmography, interspersed with some biography, input/insights from people that worked with him (who I'm sure would be very receptive to a project like this), and so on. No pressure - but it'd be choice!

  5. In a fair world, all filmmakers would have a chance for recognition. As all of us know, however, that is seldom the reality. It is in the hearts of fans like you, Patrick, that Tobe Hooper's films will live on. While people's indifference or lack of appreciation cannot be completely overcome, it seems like fans in the horror community have a strong capacity to keep the memory of even the most obscure films and filmmakers alive, and Hooper is far from obscure.