LOS ANGELES – Movie director Tobe Hooper, best known for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist horror films, died in California on Saturday, US media reported. He was 74.

The cause of the director’s death in the town of Sherman Oaks was not announced, the Hollywood industry magazine Variety reported.

Hooper, a native of Austin, Texas, was a college professor and documentary producer before branching out in 1974 to direct The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, one of the most influential films of the horror genre.

The film, shot for less than $300,000, was banned in several countries for its extreme violence but nevertheless was one of the most profitable independent US films of the 1970s, Variety said.

Such bans only added to the film’s aura, but it was Hooper’s stylish directing that really got the box offices moving.

The movie was in part based on the true story of a serial killer, called “Leatherface” in the film, who skinned his victims and used some body parts as household decorations.

William Friedkin, who directed that other iconic 1970s horror movie The Exorcist described Hooper, in a tweet, as “a kind, warm-hearted man Who made the most terrifying film ever. A good friend I will never forget.”

Hooper also directed the 1986 sequel, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2, which had a more lighthearted approach.

In 1982, Hooper directed the supernatural horror movie Poltergeist, a film written and produced by Steven Spielberg. The movie had an $11-million budget and grossed $76.6 million, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

With his beard, oval glasses and gentle smile, Hooper did not appear to be the kind of person to strike fear into anybody, but his films certainly did and his films have become classics of the genre.

He went for a very realistic cinematic approach, with the attention to detail as important as the violence on screen and the chilling soundtrack which accompanied it.

The name The Texas Chain Saw Massacre told cinemagoers what they could expect, a technique repeated throughout Hooper’s filmography which also includes titles like Spontaneous Combustion (1990), The Mangler (1995), and Crocodile (2000).

In the 1990s Hooper did a lot of work for television, including episodes of Tales from the Crypt and Dark Skies.

He made his final film Djinn in 2013, a horror movie set in the United Arab Emirates and produced in both English and Arabic but which was released on video.

The late director is survived by two sons, Variety said. – AFP