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An enormously entertaining account of the gifted and eccentric directors who gave us the golden age of modern horror in the 1970s, bringing a new brand of politics and gritty realism to the genre. Much has been written about the storied New Hollywood of the 1970s, but at the same time as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola were making their first An enormously entertaining account of the gifted and eccentric directors who gave us the golden age of modern horror in the 1970s, bringing a new brand of politics and gritty realism to the genre. Much has been written about the storied New Hollywood of the 1970s, but at the same time as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola were making their first classic movies, a parallel universe of directors gave birth to the modern horror film-aggressive, raw, and utterly original. Based on unprecedented access to the genre's major players, The New York Times's critic Jason Zinoman's Shock Value delivers the first definitive account of horror's golden age. By the late 1960s, horror was stuck in the past, confined mostly to drive-in theaters and exploitation houses, and shunned by critics. Shock Value tells the unlikely story of how the much-disparaged horror film became an ambitious art form while also conquering the multiplex. Directors such as Wes Craven, Roman Polanski, John Carpenter, and Brian De Palma- counterculture types operating largely outside the confines of Hollywood-revolutionized the genre, exploding taboos and bringing a gritty aesthetic, confrontational style, and political edge to horror. Zinoman recounts how these directors produced such classics as Rosemary's Baby, Carrie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween, creating a template for horror that has been imitated relentlessly but whose originality has rarely been matched. This new kind of film dispensed with the old vampires and werewolves and instead assaulted audiences with portraits of serial killers, the dark side of suburbia, and a brand of nihilistic violence that had never been seen before. Shock Value tells the improbable stories behind the making of these movies, which were often directed by obsessive and insecure young men working on shoestring budgets, were funded by sketchy investors, and starred porn stars. But once The Exorcist became the highest grossing film in America, Hollywood took notice. The classic horror films of the 1970s have now spawned a billion-dollar industry, but they have also penetrated deep into the American consciousness. Quite literally, Zinoman reveals, these movies have taught us what to be afraid of. Drawing on interviews with hundreds of the most important artists in horror, Shock Value is an enthralling and personality-driven account of an overlooked but hugely influential golden age in American film.


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An enormously entertaining account of the gifted and eccentric directors who gave us the golden age of modern horror in the 1970s, bringing a new brand of politics and gritty realism to the genre. Much has been written about the storied New Hollywood of the 1970s, but at the same time as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola were making their first An enormously entertaining account of the gifted and eccentric directors who gave us the golden age of modern horror in the 1970s, bringing a new brand of politics and gritty realism to the genre. Much has been written about the storied New Hollywood of the 1970s, but at the same time as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola were making their first classic movies, a parallel universe of directors gave birth to the modern horror film-aggressive, raw, and utterly original. Based on unprecedented access to the genre's major players, The New York Times's critic Jason Zinoman's Shock Value delivers the first definitive account of horror's golden age. By the late 1960s, horror was stuck in the past, confined mostly to drive-in theaters and exploitation houses, and shunned by critics. Shock Value tells the unlikely story of how the much-disparaged horror film became an ambitious art form while also conquering the multiplex. Directors such as Wes Craven, Roman Polanski, John Carpenter, and Brian De Palma- counterculture types operating largely outside the confines of Hollywood-revolutionized the genre, exploding taboos and bringing a gritty aesthetic, confrontational style, and political edge to horror. Zinoman recounts how these directors produced such classics as Rosemary's Baby, Carrie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween, creating a template for horror that has been imitated relentlessly but whose originality has rarely been matched. This new kind of film dispensed with the old vampires and werewolves and instead assaulted audiences with portraits of serial killers, the dark side of suburbia, and a brand of nihilistic violence that had never been seen before. Shock Value tells the improbable stories behind the making of these movies, which were often directed by obsessive and insecure young men working on shoestring budgets, were funded by sketchy investors, and starred porn stars. But once The Exorcist became the highest grossing film in America, Hollywood took notice. The classic horror films of the 1970s have now spawned a billion-dollar industry, but they have also penetrated deep into the American consciousness. Quite literally, Zinoman reveals, these movies have taught us what to be afraid of. Drawing on interviews with hundreds of the most important artists in horror, Shock Value is an enthralling and personality-driven account of an overlooked but hugely influential golden age in American film.

30 review for Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror

  1. 5 out of 5

    Wil Wheaton

    This book is a fantastic examination of the people and movies that created horror as we know it. If you want to understand why we had so many slasher films in the 80s, or why horror seemed to be completely subverted into weird satire that wasn't particularly scary in the 90s, you should read this book. This book is a fantastic examination of the people and movies that created horror as we know it. If you want to understand why we had so many slasher films in the 80s, or why horror seemed to be completely subverted into weird satire that wasn't particularly scary in the 90s, you should read this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David

    John Carpenter's Halloween has without question been one of the most influential films of my life. In particular, I think a great deal of my neurotic development over the past twenty-five years has been aptly summarized by the scene wherein Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) breathes an ill-advised sigh of relief against a bedroom door jamb after she has finally 'defeated' her tormentor Michael Myers. Despite being chased relentlessly by this knife-wielding psychopath in a modified William Shatner John Carpenter's Halloween has without question been one of the most influential films of my life. In particular, I think a great deal of my neurotic development over the past twenty-five years has been aptly summarized by the scene wherein Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) breathes an ill-advised sigh of relief against a bedroom door jamb after she has finally 'defeated' her tormentor Michael Myers. Despite being chased relentlessly by this knife-wielding psychopath in a modified William Shatner mask and navy blue coveralls, Laurie turns her back to his motionless body and attempts to recuperate, in whatever provisional way. Her carelessness is, of course, shockingly idiotic, and we all know that lapses in vigilance rarely go unpunished in horror films. Michael Myers, the embodiment of an evil both indefatigable and indefinable, seizes the opportunity. He sits up—abruptly, rigidly, but with no real urgency. It's his doddering pace and listless sadism that makes him all the more terrifying. If we can in fact even call it 'sadism.' Does he enjoy his murders—or is he merely instinctual, programmatic? Do his acts correspond to any scale of morality whatsoever? If not, then why murder as opposed to any other 'hobby'? This limitless uncertainty underscores the terror. When we begin to understand the mechanisms of terror, its effect is proportionally diminished. This scene is essentially a crib sheet for my paranoia and pervasive dread. We face ambiguous antagonism throughout all our lives. Whether we interpret it as the function of nature and chance or the active malevolence of other humans (or even devils and evil spirits) is of less relevance than finding a way to manage it. At any moment, we might conceivably slump into a complacent sigh of relief, unaware that agents of misfortune or cruelty are awakening just over our shoulders. Disease, loss, war, injury, loneliness, death, et al. Michael Myers comprises them all as a skulking assailant. He is an interpretation or a metaphor: Suffering as active agency. Welcome to New Horror. Paralleling New Hollywood, which enjoyed its apotheosis in the 1970s, New Horror was a reaction to the dusty, disreputable conventions of the monster movies of the 1950s and 1960s. In Shock Value, Jason Zinoman does an admirable job in putting together a well-researched, entertaining, and informative survey of the motivations and modus operandi of New Horror. The films he addresses (to varying degrees) are George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets, John Carpenter’s Dark Star and Halloween, Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Brian De Palma’s Carrie, and Ridley Scott’s Alien. (He also touches briefly on Black Christmas, Jaws, The Shining, and others.) Almost all of these films are near and dear to my heart, except for Last House on the Left for reasons discussed here and Dark Star, which I haven’t seen. Zinoman takes horror seriously, but he isn’t stuffy, humorless, or boring, to be sure. His is a film criticism that’s approachable, makes sense, and also considers horror as a function of the society we live in. He analyzes the remarkable shift from the assembly line schlock of the Eisenhower era to a more confrontational, visceral, and auteur-driven horror of the late 1960s and 1970s by addressing each film in its own right but also the films as they influence each other in the community of horror directors, writers, and fans. It’s also fascinating to track a disreputable genre as it graduates from B-status (and worse) to Oscar-nominated prestige with actors and directors who aren’t just ‘slumming it’ anymore and approach horror as a real artistic choice. (Stanley Kubrick, William Friedkin, Jack Nicholson, Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, and Roman Polanski are just a few participants who signal horror’s rising status.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    brian

    best to worst brian depalma dressed to kill carrie blow out femme fatale snake eyes hi mom! body double scarface the fury phantom of the paradise greetings sisters carlito's way raising cain mission impossible untouchables wise guys casualties of war obsession bonfire of the vanities mission to mars black dahlia roman polanski chinatown bitter moon rosemary's baby death and the maiden the tenant repulsion knife in the water cul-de-sac frantic macbeth the ghost writer the pianist tess the ninth gate david cronenberg dead ringers the fly best to worst brian depalma dressed to kill carrie blow out femme fatale snake eyes hi mom! body double scarface the fury phantom of the paradise greetings sisters carlito's way raising cain mission impossible untouchables wise guys casualties of war obsession bonfire of the vanities mission to mars black dahlia roman polanski chinatown bitter moon rosemary's baby death and the maiden the tenant repulsion knife in the water cul-de-sac frantic macbeth the ghost writer the pianist tess the ninth gate david cronenberg dead ringers the fly the brood videodrome crash shivers rabid scanners the dead zone m butterfly naked lunch existenz eastern promises history of violence spider john carpenter the thing halloween starman they live ghosts of mars escape from NY christine assault on precinct 13 in the mouth of madness big trouble in little china vampires the fog escape from LA village of the damned prince of darkness memoirs of an invisible man pro-life tobe hooper texas chainsaw massacre poltergeist invaders from mars texas chainsaw massacre 2 life force william friedkin the exorcist to live and die in LA the french connection cruising the hunted bug jade blue chips george romero creepshow night of the living dead dawn of the dead land of the dead day of the dead diary of the dead the dark half wes craven nightmare on elm street scream red eye scream 2 the hills have eyes new nightmare swamp thing shocker the serpent and the rainbow last house on the left scream 3 music of the heart deadly friend my soul to take cursed the people under the stairs vampire in brooklyn

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carla Remy

    This was so good. The era of "New Horror" it covers goes from 1968 (with the demise of the studio system) to 1980 (the rise of special effects and endless horror sequels). Very interesting and full of new facts. The fact that I've seen the vast majority of the movies covered made it fun to read. (As far as the couple things I haven't seen, I will find a way to watch Dark Star and, despite liking Wes Craven, I just have no interest in seeing The Last House on the Left). I loved that the influence This was so good. The era of "New Horror" it covers goes from 1968 (with the demise of the studio system) to 1980 (the rise of special effects and endless horror sequels). Very interesting and full of new facts. The fact that I've seen the vast majority of the movies covered made it fun to read. (As far as the couple things I haven't seen, I will find a way to watch Dark Star and, despite liking Wes Craven, I just have no interest in seeing The Last House on the Left). I loved that the influence of Mario Bava is recognized.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mike McPadden

    The late 90s/early 2000s reeked of academics and pretentious media tastemakers attempting to glom on to yet another "bad kid" underworld (as they did with rock, punk, metal, zines, and anything and everything else) in the form of blank-brained boors chanting memorized blather about how, "THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is actually about the Vietnam war, man." Go sit on a Black & Decker. George Romero, most prominently, has forged a decades-long, NPR-blessed professional run out of claiming that he cre The late 90s/early 2000s reeked of academics and pretentious media tastemakers attempting to glom on to yet another "bad kid" underworld (as they did with rock, punk, metal, zines, and anything and everything else) in the form of blank-brained boors chanting memorized blather about how, "THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is actually about the Vietnam war, man." Go sit on a Black & Decker. George Romero, most prominently, has forged a decades-long, NPR-blessed professional run out of claiming that he created DAWN OF THE DEAD with intentions beyond showing how awesome it would be if flesh-eating ghouls trashed everything inside a shopping mall. I love DAWN OF THE DEAD. Romero is a charmer. But I don't now, nor have I ever, bought that con. SHOCK VALUE author Jason Zinoman may or may not swallow it either, but the book comes off as his attempt to finally format all such nonsense into a handy checklist for the sort of gasbags who'd never actually watch horror movies to reference when befouling their surroundings by talking about horror movies. If that was his intention: bullseye. And then I'd add another word that starts with the same five letters. The nonsense about "New Horror" in the mold of EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS' historical re-education pollutes every page., and Zinoman's mission to force the existing high-culture narrative regarding 70s cinema into that boilerplate includes factual bone-ups (intentional or otherwise) on the order of claiming that in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, lead villain Krug carves the word "LOVE" onto a victim's body. He doesn't. He carves the word "Krug." But it would be so much heavier if he'd chosen "LOVE", man, so let's just report it as that. In addition, Zinoman swiped John Waters' book title, and I guarantee he didn't even know he was doing it. All that bloviated, reading the book itself ain't a half-terrible experience. It moves, it communicates interesting information (although clearly not 100% trustworthy), and it's not dry. Faint praise, to be sure, but it's something to hold onto until the upcoming septic wave of tomes declaring, "SAW and HOSTEL are really about Halliburton and Guantanamo, man."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    SHOCK VALUE is one of my favorite books published this year. Zinoman details the move away from the goofy, safe horror films of the 50s and 60s to the mix of exploitation, confrontation, and art of the late 60s and 70s. Horror movies where the source of the horror is murky, or cannot be easily explained or rationalized away. Exhaustively researched, the main arc of the book’s argument/definition of the modern horror film are: Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Last House on the Left, The Texas Ch SHOCK VALUE is one of my favorite books published this year. Zinoman details the move away from the goofy, safe horror films of the 50s and 60s to the mix of exploitation, confrontation, and art of the late 60s and 70s. Horror movies where the source of the horror is murky, or cannot be easily explained or rationalized away. Exhaustively researched, the main arc of the book’s argument/definition of the modern horror film are: Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Last House on the Left, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and Alien. Each film and their filmmakers are dissected and discussed within the framework of what was happening in horror and Hollywood at the time. While I sometimes disagreed with the artistic merit of some of these films, Zinoman does the reader the tremendous service of patiently outlining his hypothesis, his case as it were, then meticulously offering his reasons, evidence, etc, for the argument. He also wisely leaves room for the reader to disagree. He never speaks down at the reader or authoritatively; he never pulls the don’t-look-behind-the-curtain Oz thing that too many non-fiction writers fall prey to. And the result is an extremely well-written, wildly informative, entertaining book; one that, for me, has put the origins of some of the movies and directors I don’t like (Wes Craven for one) in a new light.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Baal Of

    Given how much I love a lot of the horror movies covered in this book it was inevitable that I would like it, but this book went beyond my expectations. The thoughtfulness with which the author approached the subject hit the right tone for me, and I thought he did a good job contrasting the artistic intentions of the film makers against the desires to just make something cool. As is often the case, I was struck by just how much contingency affected the outcomes of many of the films I love, and h Given how much I love a lot of the horror movies covered in this book it was inevitable that I would like it, but this book went beyond my expectations. The thoughtfulness with which the author approached the subject hit the right tone for me, and I thought he did a good job contrasting the artistic intentions of the film makers against the desires to just make something cool. As is often the case, I was struck by just how much contingency affected the outcomes of many of the films I love, and how in retrospect it seems amazing that some of these films even exist. I still think The Exorcist is overrated, and not at all scary, but it was interesting getting some background on just why it had the impact that it did. Of all the films discussed, the one mentioned the most that I still haven't seen is The Last House On The Left; I should probably remedy that situation. Addendum: Jokes on me, turns out I had already seen The Last House On The Left. It's a good thing I have external memory storage, although if I ever lose my Netflix I'm going to be screwed.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bridget H

    While only slightly more elucidating than perusing IMDb's trivia section, I did enjoy certain parts of Shock Value. The author clearly loves horror and his detailed accounts of behind the scenes negotiations and creative spats are entertaining. However Zinoman is wildly irregular in his approach. He melds history with theory but gravely does a disservice to the latter. For instance, he dismisses gendered readings of slasher films as "sex-obsessed" but occasionally points to Freud as an explanati While only slightly more elucidating than perusing IMDb's trivia section, I did enjoy certain parts of Shock Value. The author clearly loves horror and his detailed accounts of behind the scenes negotiations and creative spats are entertaining. However Zinoman is wildly irregular in his approach. He melds history with theory but gravely does a disservice to the latter. For instance, he dismisses gendered readings of slasher films as "sex-obsessed" but occasionally points to Freud as an explanation for why certain things make us spook. Okay, dude. If you want to read a truly great book on horror check out Carol J. Clover's excellent Men, Women, and Chainsaws. The nicest thing I can say about Shock Value is that it made me want to reread Clover.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures used to be horror films and when I saw this book at the library it interested me in that it explained how the Dracula/Frankenstein movies which were the horror movies of another era, morphed into the explicit gut wrenching films which began in the late 1960/70s. It all started with the basement budget "Night of the Living Dead" directed by George Romero. I remember the first time I saw it......at a midnight movie which was packed to the rafters and I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures used to be horror films and when I saw this book at the library it interested me in that it explained how the Dracula/Frankenstein movies which were the horror movies of another era, morphed into the explicit gut wrenching films which began in the late 1960/70s. It all started with the basement budget "Night of the Living Dead" directed by George Romero. I remember the first time I saw it......at a midnight movie which was packed to the rafters and it scared the living hell out of me. Then came "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" and film moved into a whole other era. Audiences wondered why the Dracula/Frankenstein era frightened them when they could now see men wielding chain saws hanging young girls on meat hooks or an innocent child whose head spun around 360 degrees while spewing green vomit. Young directors and screenwriters coming out of such schools as UCLA had different ideas about what frightened people and with the lifting of the Production Code, were able to show pretty much anything that would cause their audiences jump out of their seats or run from the theater. This is a history of those men, Tobe Hooper, George Romero, West Craven, and John Carpenter and the resistance of the studios to this new type of film (many had to be made independently). Once the studios found that these films were making big money, their attitudes changed dramatically. This is a great reference book for the film lover, even if you don't appreciate scary movies. I must add that I no longer watch this genre of film as I can't stomach the egregious violence.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I should preface this by saying that one of my favorite books about movies is Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. I read that book when I was a teenager and I clearly remember thinking, as I got to the end, "Biskind didn't really write about Halloween or Alien!" Two of my favorite movies from the '70's are given passing mention in his book but, by and large, Biskind stayed away from the horror genre (The Exorcist notwithstan I should preface this by saying that one of my favorite books about movies is Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. I read that book when I was a teenager and I clearly remember thinking, as I got to the end, "Biskind didn't really write about Halloween or Alien!" Two of my favorite movies from the '70's are given passing mention in his book but, by and large, Biskind stayed away from the horror genre (The Exorcist notwithstanding) and focused on the maverick directors of the 1970's like Coppola, Scorsese, and Spielberg. With that in mind, I thoroughly enjoyed Shock Value, an exhaustive and entertaining look at the horror genre in the 1970's that takes many of its' cues from Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. Zinoman give his readers a comprehensive look at the directors and writers who brought horror from the midnight screenings to the mainstream. George Romero, John Carpenter, Brian DePalma, William Friedkin, Roman Polanski, Tobe Hooper are all given equal consideration. While documenting the process of their movies, the author also gives cultural context to the successes of the movies in a time in America full of political and social upheaval. Although some interesting points are made, I'd argue a little too much time is given over to Peter Bogdanovich's Targets, a movie I don't really consider a horror movie despite the Zinoman's arguments. However, it's nice to see the author give so much praise over to Dan O'Bannon, an relatively unsung father of modern horror and sci-fi.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sistermagpie

    My least favorite thing about this book was that it was too short. I love horror movies and I love reading about horror movies. This book focuses on that really golden age when low budget independent directors were changing the genre and making it mainstream by seeming to be anything but. Even if I didn't like the genre it's always exciting reading about people getting together and making things that are going to turn out to be really special since they couldn't have known it at the time. Most o My least favorite thing about this book was that it was too short. I love horror movies and I love reading about horror movies. This book focuses on that really golden age when low budget independent directors were changing the genre and making it mainstream by seeming to be anything but. Even if I didn't like the genre it's always exciting reading about people getting together and making things that are going to turn out to be really special since they couldn't have known it at the time. Most of all liked hearing the different creators' theories about horror when that came into it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Luke McCarthy

    Too light on information/meaningful analysis to be revelatory to anyone who's actually interested in 1970's New Horror, and yet too niche to appeal to anyone else. Some vaguely interesting connections made between the different landmark films Zinoman chooses to write about, but nothing that reads as overly astute or groundbreaking (also a lot of questionable leaps in logic here for anyone well-versed in the films he's writing about). Not really sure who this was written for. Too light on information/meaningful analysis to be revelatory to anyone who's actually interested in 1970's New Horror, and yet too niche to appeal to anyone else. Some vaguely interesting connections made between the different landmark films Zinoman chooses to write about, but nothing that reads as overly astute or groundbreaking (also a lot of questionable leaps in logic here for anyone well-versed in the films he's writing about). Not really sure who this was written for.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Another one I'm shelving for now. I need to read it rather than listen because so much of it is new information to me. Although if I read it next year for Halloween, I think it will hit different as I spent quarantine catching up on all the Halloween classics I had never watched! Another one I'm shelving for now. I need to read it rather than listen because so much of it is new information to me. Although if I read it next year for Halloween, I think it will hit different as I spent quarantine catching up on all the Halloween classics I had never watched!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    The subject of this fascinating book is the cycle of really exciting horror films that began in the late 60’s and continued until the end of 70’s. The author dubs these movies “New Horror,” as they broke with the conventions of the past, introducing adult themes, moral ambiguity and auteur-driven, seat-of-the-pants filmmaking that continue to influence filmmakers even today. Some of the titles discussed are among my all-time favorites, horror or no: Night of the Living Dead, Rosemary’s Baby, The The subject of this fascinating book is the cycle of really exciting horror films that began in the late 60’s and continued until the end of 70’s. The author dubs these movies “New Horror,” as they broke with the conventions of the past, introducing adult themes, moral ambiguity and auteur-driven, seat-of-the-pants filmmaking that continue to influence filmmakers even today. Some of the titles discussed are among my all-time favorites, horror or no: Night of the Living Dead, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, Carrie, Halloween and Alien. Zinoman writes with the insight of a born critic, avoiding dry academic-speak but never tipping over into fanboy gush (the latter a trap to which many authors of pop culture tomes fall prey). He delves into the gestation, creation, aesthetic principles and impact of each of the films, focusing particularly on the directors (Polanski, Romero, Craven, Hooper, etc.) and creators (Dan O'Bannon, screenwriter of Alien). A highly readable and entertaining look back at an important, long-gone era. March 2019: liked this even more this time around, it’s so good.

  15. 5 out of 5

    molly

    the subject is really interesting, but the writing is weak. i was interested to learn more about people like dan o'bannon, a man largely responsible for getting "alien" off the ground, but surprised by the short shrift granted directors like cronenberg and raimi. ETA - i think zinoman's take on feminism and the figure of the woman in horror films was kind of glib. like he knew he had to address it, but wasn't up for or interested in the task of really taking it apart in a critical way. mostly he the subject is really interesting, but the writing is weak. i was interested to learn more about people like dan o'bannon, a man largely responsible for getting "alien" off the ground, but surprised by the short shrift granted directors like cronenberg and raimi. ETA - i think zinoman's take on feminism and the figure of the woman in horror films was kind of glib. like he knew he had to address it, but wasn't up for or interested in the task of really taking it apart in a critical way. mostly he just agreed with what the directors said in their interviews, that a naked girl and a knife is a hard combination to pass up.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Autumn

    I devoured this book like a zombie at an organ donor center. It was so exciting to think about the differences between old and new horror and to get a historical perspective on how the split happened. Like everything else awesome, it was apparently invented by a bunch of geeks who read Lovecraft at a tender age. But really, Zinoman combines research, interviews, contemporary reviews and close viewing to figure out why these movies happened and why they are still regarded as the basis of modern h I devoured this book like a zombie at an organ donor center. It was so exciting to think about the differences between old and new horror and to get a historical perspective on how the split happened. Like everything else awesome, it was apparently invented by a bunch of geeks who read Lovecraft at a tender age. But really, Zinoman combines research, interviews, contemporary reviews and close viewing to figure out why these movies happened and why they are still regarded as the basis of modern horror.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Josh Lafollette

    Just over a year ago, I wrote my senior research on the development of exploitation films in America. My enduring interest in this little slice of pop culture history inevitably drew me to this book. In retrospect, I wish I had used it as a resource for my project. Nevertheless, Shock Value turned out to be a worthwhile read. Perhaps it should go without saying, but I would only recommend this book to readers with at least a passing knowledge of the subject matter. Shock Value is a portrait of a Just over a year ago, I wrote my senior research on the development of exploitation films in America. My enduring interest in this little slice of pop culture history inevitably drew me to this book. In retrospect, I wish I had used it as a resource for my project. Nevertheless, Shock Value turned out to be a worthwhile read. Perhaps it should go without saying, but I would only recommend this book to readers with at least a passing knowledge of the subject matter. Shock Value is a portrait of a select group of writers, directors, and producers who stumbled into film history. This book is Zinoman's love letter to filmmakers like George Romero, John Carpenter, and Wes Craven. To his credit, he confronts the humanity of his heroes, never slipping into hagiography. He recounts their failures alongside their successes, noting their shortcomings as he sings their praises. Though Zinoman weaves multiple perspectives together, often allowing the filmmakers to speak for themselves. This engaging mix of personalities drew me even deeper into the story. Readers hoping for a comprehensive history of horror should look elsewhere. Shock Value touches on developments like the growth of independent cinema and the collapse of the studio system, but only as background to the story at hand. I don't agree with all of Zinoman's conclusions, but it's a testament to his writing ability that I enjoyed the book even when I though it was wrong. The book contains a wealth of behind-the-scenes stories and intriguing anecdotes, but its true strength lies in its organization. Even as it jumps from year to year and references countless films, Shock Value is anchored by a coherent narrative thread from beginning to end. Through in-depth research and numerous interviews with his subjects, Zinoman unearths a compelling story about a cluster of brilliant weirdos who rewrote the rules of filmmaking. Shock Value's limited focus is more of an asset than a weakness, offering an in-depth look at a brief moment in history rather than a surface reading of a whole genre. Even the most obsessive horror fans will find a surprise or two in these pages.

  18. 4 out of 5

    John

    This book explores what the author calls "New Horror," referring to a select group of low-budget, take-no-prisoners horror movies from the 60's and 70's whose important innovation was to successfully mix grindhouse with arthouse. The book explains how we went from Boris Karloff and Vincent Price to Wes Craven and George Romero, all within the span of a single generation. The author credits Hitchcock for launching "New Horror" back in 1960 with his ground- and rule-breaking PSYCHO, which effective This book explores what the author calls "New Horror," referring to a select group of low-budget, take-no-prisoners horror movies from the 60's and 70's whose important innovation was to successfully mix grindhouse with arthouse. The book explains how we went from Boris Karloff and Vincent Price to Wes Craven and George Romero, all within the span of a single generation. The author credits Hitchcock for launching "New Horror" back in 1960 with his ground- and rule-breaking PSYCHO, which effectively re-invented the whole horror genre. In 1968, the films NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and TARGETS further cemented the notion of a new type of horror, paving the way for a host of hard-to-categorize horror films throughout the 1970's. Movies like THE EXORCIST, CARRIE, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, ALIEN, JAWS, and ROMEMARY'S BABY. Such films defied the usual horror conventions and earned the genre a begrudging new respectability among critics. Meanwhile, carefully crafted shockers like HALLOWEEN and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE became huge hits and, in doing so, pushed grindhouse cinema out into the mainstream, where bigger budgets resulted in safer, glossier projects, thereby effectively nipping "New Horror" in the bud. SHOCK VALUE also has a great chapter on why such unpleasant and hard-to-justify horror films as THE HILLS HAVE EYES and DAWN OF THE DEAD have such rabid fanbases, and why the directors of those films had such a strong distaste for the later "torture porn" films that their work inspired. (Wes Craven walked out in disgust halfway through Tarantino's RESERVOIR DOGS, and George Romero seems genuinely appalled at the violence depicted in movies like HOSTEL.) The author of this book really seems to know his stuff, and his analysis of New Horror films enhanced my admiration for the craftsmanship and innovative ideas that went into their creation, despite the fact that John Carpenter is the only one of these New Horror filmmakers I'm actually a fan of. Still, a fun and informative read from cover to cover.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Loser's Club Book Reviews

    A great read. This is the best book I have found so far on the subject of Horror Cinema. The book paints an excellent backdrop to the birth of the modern Horror flick. Helping the reader to understand the social and political influences of the time and how these birthed directors such as Wes Craven, John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper. If you are a fan of Horror then reading this book is a must. You won’t be disappointed. There are a couple of small errors in matching actors to films they did not act A great read. This is the best book I have found so far on the subject of Horror Cinema. The book paints an excellent backdrop to the birth of the modern Horror flick. Helping the reader to understand the social and political influences of the time and how these birthed directors such as Wes Craven, John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper. If you are a fan of Horror then reading this book is a must. You won’t be disappointed. There are a couple of small errors in matching actors to films they did not actually appear in but this isn’t enough to distract from the overall feel of a well researched book. Once you finish the book I guarantee you will immediately want to go and binge the films which it covers. I know i did.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brian Cohen

    I can’t say I learned a lot between film school and my own personal education on horror films, which is pretty extensive, but there was some great background I didn’t know about the filmmakers and I liked and agreed with a lot of the analysis. It definitely made me want to revisit the classics. I also appreciated the acknowledgment that none of the filmmakers really lived up to their early promise. And man, Pauline Kael really knew how to make snobbery sound like intelligence.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aussiescribbler Aussiescribbler

    Overwhelming terror may be the closest we ever get to the feeling of being born. Jason Zinoman knows how to tell a compelling story, and he has some great ones to tell, about the lives of the men behind the iconic horror movies of the 1970s and how those movies came into being. Zinoman is a journalist specialising in theatre. One of the most interest aspects of the book is the way he explains the influence of the theatre of Harold Pinter, Edward Albee and Samuel Beckett on some of the writers and Overwhelming terror may be the closest we ever get to the feeling of being born. Jason Zinoman knows how to tell a compelling story, and he has some great ones to tell, about the lives of the men behind the iconic horror movies of the 1970s and how those movies came into being. Zinoman is a journalist specialising in theatre. One of the most interest aspects of the book is the way he explains the influence of the theatre of Harold Pinter, Edward Albee and Samuel Beckett on some of the writers and directors of classic 1970's horror films, particularly through the concept that the unexplained is far more unnerving than that which can be given a rational context. Films like Night of the Living Dead, Rosemary's Baby, Last House on the Left, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Carrie, Halloween and Alien where the product of commercial considerations, imaginative expressions of personal anxieties and philosophical conflicts as well as arguments in an ongoing debate about how to best go about scaring audiences. By the late sixties, horror in the cinema had become associated with the cosily gothic or campy and with men in bad monster suits. The easing up of censorship in the U.S. with a new ratings system coincided with the entry into the movie business of a bunch of serious horror fans inspired by E.C. comics and the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. There ideas on how to transfer the feelings of dread they loved to the big screen differed. Some, like Wes Craven, believed in unflinching depiction of realistic violence. Others, like Roman Polanski in Rosemary's Baby and John Carpenter in Halloween believed that what was suggested was far scarier than what was shown. (Yet, Polanksi and Carpenter would both later resort to explicit gore in Macbeth and The Thing respectively.) Some, like Kim Henkel, co-writer of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, felt that a sense of gritty realism in setting was crucial to getting the audience to take the story seriously, while Brian De Palma deliberately downplayed the realism when adapting Stephen King's novel Carrie, turning it from the story of an overweight unattractive girl in a realistic high school to that of a strangely beautiful girl in the kind of high school full of beautiful people which only exists in movies. Both approaches worked. The auteur theory encourages us to view movies as the personal expression of their director. While this is appropriate where a director has had almost total control over the proceedings, as with Ingmar Bergman or Federico Fellini, it is misleading in most cases because film-making is a collaborative process which is not in anyone's total control. Zinoman does a great job of showing how films like The Exorcist and Alien were the product of competing viewpoints. William Peter Blatty, as a Catholic, wanted The Exorcist to be an expression of faith. William Friedkin, the director, was an agnostic who was more interested in leaving the existence of God and the Devil more enigmatic. The film which was originally released was closer to Friedkin's vision. Blatty was not happy, but in 2000 he got his wish and the film was re-released in a version which re-instated some of the dialogue which underlined the religious theme of the movie as well as his less ambiguous ending. Dan O'Bannon, who co-wrote the script for alien, had a good deal of influence on the making of the film, being able to persuade the producers to hire controversial artist H. R. Giger to design the alien, however he was kicked off of the set when he kept insisting that director Ridley Scott was pacing the film too slowly. Also, Walter Hill changed O'Bannon's script to make it leaner and to make the main character a woman. The brilliance of the final film comes from the fact that the visions of O'Bannon, Giger, Hill and Scott all fed into it. Sometimes this kind of process leads to a watering down, but sometimes it leads to something which is greater than the contributor's individual visions. There are loads of juicy stories about how the personal lives of these men fed into their work. De Palma's obsession with voyeurism arising from a time when he tried to help his mother by spying on his father's sexual infidelity. The chest-burster idea for Alien being inspired by Dan O'Bannon's battle with Crohn's Disease. Wes Craven being raised by his religious fanatic mother. The only short-coming to the book is that Zinoman is prone to a few factual inaccuracies. Krug did not carve the word "Love" into the girl's chest in Last House on the Left. He carved his name. There is no scene in Herschell Gordon Lewis's 2000 Maniacs in which a girl has her nipples cut off and milk squirts out. That occurs in his much later film The Gore Gore Girls. And Hammer's movie Curse of the Werewolf was not a remake. It was the first and only film adaptation of Guy Endore's novel The Werewolf of Paris. But don't let that discourage you from reading a book which may have you looking at the classic horror movies of the 1970s, and those of today, in a whole new light.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarospice

    Wes Craven. John Carpenter. Tobe Hooper. George Romero. Dan O'Bannon. If those names mean anything to you without having to google them, you'll love this book. An interesting plunge into artist who changed the world of horror because they were simply trying to survive. Makes you want to watch every movie mentioned. again. Wes Craven. John Carpenter. Tobe Hooper. George Romero. Dan O'Bannon. If those names mean anything to you without having to google them, you'll love this book. An interesting plunge into artist who changed the world of horror because they were simply trying to survive. Makes you want to watch every movie mentioned. again.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brian Joynt

    Well-researched history of some of the great horror films, and how they affected and/or changed the game at various points in time. If you're a serious horror movie fan you're going to already know a lot of these stories, but there's some interesting facts and info surrounding the inception of these films that the author brings to light in a clear, readable tome. Well-researched history of some of the great horror films, and how they affected and/or changed the game at various points in time. If you're a serious horror movie fan you're going to already know a lot of these stories, but there's some interesting facts and info surrounding the inception of these films that the author brings to light in a clear, readable tome.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cool Papa

    Charles Champlin of the LA Times said of these early horror films: "(They) seem a singularly appropriate symbol of an age which, believing in nothing, will believe anything." Charles Champlin of the LA Times said of these early horror films: "(They) seem a singularly appropriate symbol of an age which, believing in nothing, will believe anything."

  25. 5 out of 5

    James Oxyer

    Fantastic!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Informative and fun read into the history of the major horror movies from the 70's. Informative and fun read into the history of the major horror movies from the 70's.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nerita

    A great exploration of horror genre and the people who created it and made it mainstream. Cool read for fans of the genre.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Frank Maccormack

    As someone who is both an avid fan of the horror genre and a sucker for movie trivia, I was very excited about this book when I saw it on a book table at a local book store one day. I had already known a bit about the behind-the-scenes workings of a few of my favorite horror movies, but was still fascinated to hear about how often the great horror movies of our time were troubled with complicated business negotiations, low-budget concessions, interpersonal conflicts, and poor expectations. In fa As someone who is both an avid fan of the horror genre and a sucker for movie trivia, I was very excited about this book when I saw it on a book table at a local book store one day. I had already known a bit about the behind-the-scenes workings of a few of my favorite horror movies, but was still fascinated to hear about how often the great horror movies of our time were troubled with complicated business negotiations, low-budget concessions, interpersonal conflicts, and poor expectations. In fact, the book argues, and argues well, that the truly influential horror movies of the 70's, in their final products, were much better off because of these obstacles (as evidenced by how bland, unoriginal, and sterile most horror movies became once big Hollywood budgets made production a smooth sailing). I completely agree, and Zinoman does a great job of telling these stories with enthusiasm and just enough detail to keep them from feeling bogged down. Between matter-of-fact style accounts of the production cycles for many of the great horror films of the 70's, Zinoman tangents off into some very interesting discussions of the nature of the horror genre, expertly weaving back to the documentarian format after explaining why you are reading this book in the first place. It's obvious this book was written by someone with a personal, powerful connection to the realm of scary movies, and as a reader of the same sentiment, I very much enjoyed his style. All in all, I can see this book being terribly boring to anyone who either 1) does not care for horror movies, or 2) does not care for "demystifying" the movie experience by knowing where it all came from. For me, however, the horror genre is relatively unique in that the emotional investment required to enjoy the movie is not fully contained within the movie itself; it extends out to the world itself, and the individual's experience there. Knowing that a motiveless, brutal murderer in a film is nothing more than an exhausted, sweating actor in a silly mask can change the way you view the movie, but that does not change the fact that a motiveless, brutal murderer in real life is terrifying on our most primal level. Horror movies are of course just movies, but the greats are inspired by the deepest, darkest, often collective fears of the human experience. It opens up a good deal of philosophical implications, and for me, this book offered a great discussion. P.S. This book added about 10 movies to my "must eventually see" list.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    As soon as I read the review in Entertainment Weekly (and a few other locations) I knew I had to pick up this book. Shock Value: How a few eccentric outsiders gave us nightmares, conquered Hollywood, and invented modern horror by Jason Zinoman is a fantastic retrospective of the horror movie genre of New Horror and the geniuses that came out of this era. The 1970's saw some of the greatest horror movies released: Rosemary's Baby, Halloween, Alien, The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre As soon as I read the review in Entertainment Weekly (and a few other locations) I knew I had to pick up this book. Shock Value: How a few eccentric outsiders gave us nightmares, conquered Hollywood, and invented modern horror by Jason Zinoman is a fantastic retrospective of the horror movie genre of New Horror and the geniuses that came out of this era. The 1970's saw some of the greatest horror movies released: Rosemary's Baby, Halloween, Alien, The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Carrie to name just a smattering (yes, yes, yes, there are many more--this is just a smattering). These movies bucked convention of Old Horror, which was made up primarily of vampire and monster movies. These new films frightened their audience with the unknown; they took a page from the great dramatists of the time (such as Pinter) and played into the fears of what will never go away: a fear of what you can't see and can't ever truly know. I agree with Zinoman's conclusion that few if any modern horror films can come close to what the geniuses of the generation established: John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Dan O'Bannon, Brian DePalma, and Roman Polanski. They created the rules because the rules did not exist before (hell, they were making up New Horror as they went along!), and they followed the rules very closely because the rules were belonged to them in the first place. I was fascinated by Zinoman's detailed history because Halloween is still one of my favorite movies. Very few films have scared me like this one has, consistently, since I first saw it as a college student (I know, really two decades plus after it was released in 1978, but I can't help my childhood fear of fear...or when I was born). To be able to put it into historical context was meaningful and insightful for me, and I loved that I took away from this book a strong sense of artistry from the Masters of Horror. Zinoman gives us a proper history of this niche genre, and the book is well worth a read if you are a movie fan. The book is a must if you are a horror fan. And if you love history of film--well, what are you doing still reading this review? Pick up the book already.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marlowe

    Shock Value tells the story of New Horror, the mostly independent movement in the 1970s to revitalize the genre, breaking from what had become the standard in horror: formulaic monster movies with the occasional gimmick (theatre seats with buzzers!) thrown in. The book tracks a few of the major players, like Wes Craven, Brian De Palma, Roman Polanski, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper, William Friedkin, George Romero, and Dan O'Bannon. It's no secret that I'm a fan of the horror genre Shock Value tells the story of New Horror, the mostly independent movement in the 1970s to revitalize the genre, breaking from what had become the standard in horror: formulaic monster movies with the occasional gimmick (theatre seats with buzzers!) thrown in. The book tracks a few of the major players, like Wes Craven, Brian De Palma, Roman Polanski, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper, William Friedkin, George Romero, and Dan O'Bannon. It's no secret that I'm a fan of the horror genre - so much so that I rarely watch anything else. So much so that Netflix can't keep up with my consumption habits, even when I'll happily watch their 1-2 star selections. But I tend to stick to my role of consumer, and I often don't know the histories or the names of the directors (the catalogue enthusiast part of my brain is already sufficiently occupied by other topics). So it was interesting to me to get a little of the backstory. Unfortunately, Shock Value felt a bit flat. The author hops around from figure to figure, and I think that I would have found it very confusing if I didn't already know many of the names. Chapters just sort of meandered until they reached their page length, and I didn't get the sense that they had focus or purpose. Generally, I guess my complaint is just that the book "lacks soul." It throws out the information, but it doesn't dig deep, it doesn't tell a story. The closest it got was in the discussions with Dan O'Bannon, who seems like he could have justified a whole book himself. That's where Zinoman's passion peeked through, and I was intrigued enough to look up more information. But for the rest, the writing just felt very flat, telling anecdotes in a detached and almost haphazard way. For fans of horror, the book might still be worthwhile, and there were certainly bits and pieces of interesting information. But it could have been presented in a better way. It's clear from O'Bannon's sections that Zinoman does have passion, and I hope he let's himself show it a little more in future works.

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