LOS ANGELES: Tobe Hooper, the horror movie pioneer whose low-budget sensation The Texas Chain Saw Massacre took a buzz saw to audiences with its brutally frightful vision, has died. He was 74.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office on Sunday said Hooper died of natural causes Saturday in Los Angeles.

Along with contemporaries like George Romero and John Carpenter, Hooper crafted some of the scariest nightmares that ever haunted moviegoers. Hooper directed 1982’s Poltergeist from a script by Steven Spielberg and helmed the well-regarded 1979 miniseries Salem’s Lot, from Stephen King’s novel.

Hooper was a little-known filmmaker of documentaries and TV commercials when he made his most famous work: 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He made it for less than $300,000 in his native Texas, and yet it became one the most influential films in horror: a slasher film landmark.

Marketed as based on a true story, Texas Chain Saw Massacre is about a group of friends who encounter a family of cannibals in Texas. The central villain, Leatherface (played by Gunnar Hansen) was loosely based on serial killer Ed Gein, but the tale was otherwise fiction. Hooper, whose inspiration struck while looking at chain saws in a department store, considered the film a political one — a kind of shock to ’70s malaise. The film’s cannibals are out of work, their slaughterhouse jobs having been replaced by technology.

“I had never seen anything like it, and I wanted to see it myself,” said Hooper in 2014.

The film was controversial. Several countries banned it, though the independent film — aided by its gory reputation and lightning fast word-of-mouth — grossed $30.8 million, playing for eight years in drive-ins and theaters.

Hooper also directed a more comic sequel to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1986.