What becomes a legend most? For "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," it could only be "Chainsaw II."
"I guess you could say it was inevitable," said Tobe Hooper by phone from Austin, Tex., where he's directing the $4.5-million sequel. It will complete his three-film deal with Cannon Films (following the $20-million "Lifeforce" and the $13-million "Invaders From Mars," which just opened).
"We're on a tight schedule--Cannon's already booked us in theaters for August," said Hooper, who had a bout with flu and bad weather (lots of rain).
But enthusiasm is undampened: "You know, with the first film, I think audiences were so shocked that it took them five years or so before they saw and appreciated its humor."
This time the humor is pretty obvious. The murderous family (including the infamous Leatherface) is back in business--this time, they're after yuppies.
"We've been doing night shooting at an old closed-down amusement park called the Matterhorn. It's a cockeyed kind of place. It's real run down and all that's really left is the mountain, a couple of old buildings and some ratty old rides.
"It really is in 'Chainsaw' condition.
"And we've been shooting in caves, doing a scene where a tunnel collapses. So once again, here I am with my lungs full of fuller's earth." (He referred to the element used to create backlighting.)
A few months ago he was directing in the caves of Southern California--which doubled for Santa Mira, the hometown featured in "Invaders From Mars."
"That film has been following me around since 'Poltergeist,' " said Hooper, explaining that an MGM executive first approached him in 1982 about remaking William Cameron Menzies' 1953 classic.
"A great deal of what I've done with the picture is an homage to Menzies. I respect what he was doing in the first place--the look and feel of imagery. I loved Menzies' design work," he said (referring to Menzies' production design for such films as "Gone With the Wind" and "Thief of Baghdad").
"I tried to keep that famous shot of the hillside and the house and the sand pit--because those are so much a part of the child's nightmare in this movie."
The story is about a youngster who witnesses a Martian landing and later watches helplessly while his mom and dad and others are "taken over" by the invaders.
Unlike Hooper's usual work, it's devoid of explicit violence and gore.
"I am dealing in psychological horror. . . . It's a lot more challenging to try to convey the boy's trauma through the use of camera angles, lighting and set design, along the lines of the concepts pioneered by Menzies, rather than simply dump a ton of gore on the audience," said Hooper.
Hooper next will direct a segment of Steven Spielberg's "Amazing Stories." But what about the persistent controversy over "Poltergeist," which was widely reported to have been "ghost-directed" by Spielberg? "Obviously, Steven and I are on good terms."
And will there be a "Chainsaw III?"
"Well, there could be--and then again, there doesn't have to. The way I look at it is, if that family only comes around every 10 years or so, well, it's not that bad."