Tobe Hooper talks 'Texas Chain Saw Massacre' restoration
On Monday, March 10, a forty-year-old terror will return to Austin, Tx., when a newly restored version of horror classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is screened at the SXSW Festival ahead of the movie’s theatrical rerelease this summer. “It’s great on the big screen,” says filmmaker Tobe Hooper, who cowrote and directed the infamous 1974 film in the countryside outside of Austin, and also worked on the restoration. “It’s in 7.1 sound that completely wraps around you and in 4K [resolution]. The film works as well, if not better, than it originally did.”
Above, you can exclusively check out a new poster created by artist Jason Edmiston to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Chain Saw and its restoration. Below, Hooper talks more about restoring the Massacre.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What exactly was your involvement in the Texas Chain Saw Massacre restoration process?
TOBE HOOPER: Working with the color grading, working with the 7.1 sound mix, working with very good people. It was the work a director should do to keep his film preserved. I’m not tooting my own horn — well, I am — but there are other directors that saw [the restoration] and there is a great deal of excitement from them.
Who saw the new version?
I probably shouldn’t…Well, Ernest Dickerson, for one, who does Walking Dead.
I know you and [sound recordist] Wayne Bell worked very hard on the music for the film before its original release. The movie has such a strange soundtrack. I always imagined you being in a room with a lot of cymbals and a bag of spanners and just going somewhat insane.
It was very much like that, Clark. I mean it was broken kotos with contact mikes and aluminum bowls half-full of water. I used a lot of broken instruments, actually. Broken violins, broken bass. I mean, you’re right, your assessment. There was a choral in the film. You’re hearing this howling that’s mixed into the music that is my voice making sounds down a three-foot cardboard tube into a contact microphone with Sony recorders to create reverberation. And sitting on the floor. The floor was my desk. I had the legs taken off the chair.
Did you use the legs as musical instruments?
Oh, I’m sure I did. Anything I could get [to make] a good sound I would use. I’m quite surprised how much I like it in 7.1. There are theories that films like this are best in mono because it draws your attention forward. But this was designed to draw your attention all over the place. The sound fills your head.
Most low budget horror movies aren’t that impressive from a cinematographic standpoint, whereas Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a terrific-looking movie. How did you manage to do that, given the film’s tiny budget?
Well, it was my second feature, and I’d shot a lot of documentaries [and] television commercials. So I had quite a lot of experience. I came into it knowing exactly what I wanted and I did have an excellent director of photography [Daniel Pearl], who was just out of film school. So he and I together got the look down.
As I’m sure you know, there is a remake of Poltergeist coming down the pipe and it looks like another of your films, Lifeforce, is being turned into a TV show. Are you involved in either of those two projects?
No. [Laughs] I did not know Lifeforce was going to be [turned into a TV show]. I know about Poltergeist — but this does not surprise me.
Sometimes it seems like cinemas are full of nothing but remakes of horror films by yourself and John Carpenter.
Yeah, I know. [Chuckles] Is that a compliment? I guess it is.