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 Sunday said Hooper died Saturday in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles. It was reported as a natural death.

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 of 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 Central 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 The film’s cannibals are out of work, their slaughterhouse jobs having been replaced by technology.

Several countries banned the film, 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. Still, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” wasn’t as explicitly grisly as it was reputed to be.