SXSW Exclusive: Catching Up With Tobe Hooper to Talk Chainsaw, Mangler, Lifeforce Series & More


Tobe Hooper Ryan TurekWhen I last sat down with Tobe Hooper, it was to reflect on The Funhouse, a personal favorite of mine which has received the presentation it deserves via a special edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory. You can read that two-part retrospective here.

It has been some time since that encounter, however, today we reunited at SXSW in Austin, Texas (apropos) to discuss The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's 40th anniversary release. The film has been cleaned up with a new 4k transfer and 7.1 surround mix and is revving up for a release from Dark Sky Films/MPI sometime this summer.

We touched a bit on the new print and then deviated into other subjects such as other films of his that he thinks deserve some love, Lifeforce and if there's still life in the Chainsaw legacy.

Ryan Turek: I'm hearing this new print is gorgeous, but the appeal of it all for me is that new 7.1 mix.

Tobe Hooper: It is amazing. Seeing it on the big screen pristine and without scratches and wear and tear, 4k and all that shit, it's great. The surround is really used well and goes around you and top of you. All of it.

Turek: Do you think you can go too far in cleaning these movies up? In addition to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we're also seeing a re-release of a remastered version of Godzilla

Hooper: Yes, but since the remake [of TCM] was a period film – that didn't use the same story, really – the film looks like it was made last year. That was a consideration of how far to go. For certain film, like Eggshells, I left scratches in the restoration because it's a part of its charm. It's the only real hippie film about ten people living together for eight or nine months. But yes, in this situation, I feel its appropriate.

Turek: Let's talk about the humor of Chainsaw, which was the subject of a recent discussion I had on a podcast I co-host. What are your thoughts on the tone, many years later?

Hooper: It's got dark comedy.

Turek: Now, I would say that about part 2…

Hooper: Yeah, well that film…Mick Garris calls it "red comedy." But the word "comedy" it's humorous because I don't know about the word comedy. What people pick up on is the ironic stuff. It was natural and not played for the joke. Like, "look what your brother's done to the door." For the first eight years, no one saw that. I think they were just disoriented by seeing the movie. But last night [at the screening], they got it. It's there on the big screen and natural. One could call it a dark comedy.

Turek: Now, you have Djinn coming at us some time soon. Have you been keeping your finger on the pulse of the ever-evolving genre?

Hooper: Yeah, it's all I know how to do. [laughs] It's actually the only thing I care about. Oh, it's all over the place. These days, to me, No Country for Old Men is a horror movie. Then again, I've seen some stinkers. But if you deliver on the tension and the involvement, there's no reason a horror film can't be a good motion picture. 

Turek: The Chainsaw legacy…we just saw a new film hit early last year. I didn't particularly care for it, but I know some people have embraced it. But do you think there's more life in the series?

Hooper: I think there's more life in it. The producer of Texas Chainsaw 3D, Carl Mazzacone, he really worked hard to make something as close as you can to the original. He created a more true extension of the first films. Rebuilding the house and all of that? Awesome. Carl, he did a great job, I think. But yes, I think there are more Chainsaw films to do.

Turek: What movie, do you feel, out of your body of work isn't getting as much love as it should be?

Hooper: The Mangler. I mean, it's nuts. I mean, the idea of a laundry machine the size of a diesel train being possessed is… [laughs] It's totally crazy.

Turek: I'd like to get your thoughts on this Lifeforce television series Ringleader Studios wants to make.

Hooper: The only thing I can't think of is it has to be on cable, you know? But I heard that the other day and it sorta blew my mind. They're all being remade. My films and others. It could work. Finding another Mathilda May is going to be hard.

Turek: Alexandra Daddario of Texas Chainsaw 3D wouldn't be too bad.

Hooper: Oh, you're right about that.