Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My Mystical Connection To Toby Hooper

I have told this story many times but it's one of my go-to stories to tell people who give a shit to listen to such stories. I have a very personal relationship with the man and his movie - Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now how could a seventies grindhouse and gore/horror classic even reach a nice 13 year old Canadian boy before the age of video and movies on demand. There was no way I should have even KNOWN this movie existed, let alone experience it cold for the first time.

I was the kind of kid who sought out knowlege of any kind to build his deadly skill set. Air Cadets was a great avenue to pick up anything they wanted to teach me. At 13 the opportunity came along to get my projectionist licence so I could show 35 mm movies at film festivals and stuff because I would know how to change the reels and fix any possible problems. The fianl exam, as you all know, was to show two movies during the University of Brandon's film festival. They have a HUGE 35 mm film library from way back when. It was a central repository for such things during the war so they have EVERYTHING of values plus TV and commercials from Canada and around the world for media studies classes. Before video it was a treasure trove for a movie freak like me.

So in all that selection I was given at random the two movies that changed my life - Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Night Of The Living Dead. I also couldn't look away from all the horror. I had to watch in case anything went wrong with the print and to change reels at the right time. I was already nervous but what was happening on the screen horrified me. I begged the Good Lord and all the Angels to protect me that night in that dark theatre projectionist booth. I though maybe I could use empty reels of film as come kind of ninja cutting weapon if the shit went down. I was terrified beyond the ability to poop for two days afterwards. And even then I needed help - to poop I mean.

So forever Toby Hooper was the devil for it was his mad gonzo genius that was responsible for Texas and all it's over the top gore and deliberate and horrific cruelty. All covered in the fluids of the torturers and the tortured. It's a fucking nightmare.

Night of the Living Dead is no better. Black and white zombie movie that is essentially bloodless but somehow far scarier than anything 100 times more violent. George Romero is a genius. I hope for a break after all the chainsaw stuff but this one made me pee my pants. It was actually worse and the slow movie zombies (who I was seeing for the FIRST TIME) were relentless and all you could do was wait to die a horrible death. I really freaked out over the scene with the little girl and her father in the basement of the house they are baracaded in. Zombie kids are really the scariest thing I can think of after evil toddlers.

George I cut some slack. He just scared me but I knew zombies were not real but every sick bastard in Texas Chainsaw Massacre was just some sick HUMAN hillbilly fuck that could be real and needed to be put down like some rabid animal. No prison, no trial, no rehab. One in the brain. Or two to make sure.

Then in the 80s. Toby did me a huge solid. I am sure he knew of the pain his most famous film hurt me so much so he took on the job to make the Billy Idol video - Dancing With Myself. This song got Billy huge attention and while it's a song on his album with Gen X, it's assumed it's on Rebel Yell, his most classic and magnificent creation. The video was an early beauty using pretty good effects and dancers and setting and costumes to tell a nonsensicle zombie vs Billy story that had nothing to do with the song's lyrics. But that didn't matter. Billy was so cool that he had a very high pop cultural profile when Rebel Yell hit and I give Toby huge credit for that. He worked WITH Billy to bring out what was so great about him. I got as much joy from Billy Idol's music as I got fear from Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

However I only learned that the two works were created by the same guy.  My tormentor was my benefactor. I had no idea Toby did the Dancing With Myself video and when I learned that fact, everything suddenly came into balance.

So thank you Toby. I got one of the top five albums in my life because you saw something is this brash young boy and helped him reach my ears. I figure that owes you some forgiveness for terrifying the shit out of me at 13.

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