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

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,429 Ratings  ·  192 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 274 pages
Published July 7th 2011 by Penguin Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter BiskindHitchcock by François TruffautPictures at a Revolution by Mark  HarrisThe Great Movies by Roger EbertAdventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,694)
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Jul 12, 2011 David rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Aug 25, 2011 brian rated it liked it
best to worst

brian depalma
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the fury
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wise guys
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bonfire of the vanities
mission to mars
black dahlia

roman polanski
bitter moon
rosemary's baby
death and the maiden
the tenant
knife in the water
the ghost writer
the pianist
the ninth gate

david cronenberg
dead ringers
the fly
Mike McPadden
Oct 31, 2013 Mike McPadden rated it it was ok
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
Jul 13, 2011 Sistermagpie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jill Hutchinson
Apr 02, 2015 Jill Hutchinson rated it really liked it
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 a midnight movie which was packed to the rafters and ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror, movies, 2011
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 ...more
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 ...more
Nov 02, 2015 Marlowe rated it liked it
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
Aug 21, 2011 Autumn rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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
The audiobook is narrated by a fellow who sounds like Mr. Moviephone. The dry, monotone, delivery of speech will not only lull you to sleep on what should be a fascinating subject but the numerous mispronunciations will no doubt infuriate you enough to keep you awake, or at the least, baffled.

As for Zinoman's approach to the subject, it's admirable and somewhat knowing. However the history of the films and filmmakers is better covered in other books. It often reads like a graduate school thesis
Aug 22, 2011 Nicole rated it really liked it
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
Sep 02, 2011 Paul rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 07, 2012 Joan rated it really liked it
I really like interesting movie books and this one was no exception. It was interesting to read how horror movies from the 60s 70s and 80s that were considered weird and not of moral value are considered classics today (Alien, Halloween, Night of the Living Dead, Rosemary's Baby).
The interviews really caught my attention as well because you read about these directors and their films but never get the full story. This book seemed to fill in the blanks.
However, I was thinking about Asian horror mo
Jon Yates
Jan 21, 2012 Jon Yates rated it it was amazing
Insightful, well-written account of the blockbuster Seventies horror films that ushered in a "new horror" of both realism and self-reflexive commentary on the genre itself, not to mention the era of studio slasher films and publications like Fangoria. Zinoman unearths some fascinating background information the films and their creators (films like Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the careers of George Romero, John Carpenter, Brian De Palma are discussed in depth), c ...more
Frank Maccormack
Apr 10, 2012 Frank Maccormack rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jan 04, 2013 Alex rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This was a well-written dissection of the men behind some of the most influential horror movies of all time. It enunciated everything about why films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead and Alien were so revolutionary. It doesn't stop there, either. Zinoman pulls in an entire cultural zeitgeist of events that are occurring parallel with the creation of these movies, positing that these films came to America like byproducts of the Vietnam era--when fear and paranoia began t ...more
Feb 04, 2016 Scott rated it it was amazing
Fantastic and highly entertaining study of key American horror films in the 60's and 70's, mapping the shift from Old Horror (Dracula, Vincent Price) to New Horror (John Carpenter, Wes Craven). The author has a reverence for the art of the films that is both honest and intelligent. The book is an easy recommend for horror and film enthusiasts, don't miss it.
Daniel Guzman
Oct 01, 2015 Daniel Guzman rated it it was amazing
"Fear is like salt -you know. Salt opens up your tast buds so meat tastes meatier. Fear sensitizes you so you become very, very alert"

La idea era leerlo aprovechando el hype de horror de octubre pero me acabé el libro en una semana. Padre recuento de cómo cambió el género de horror en la década de los sesentas/setentas. Para un aficionado, como yo, del cine de horror, Shock Value es un MUST.
Bridget H
Feb 05, 2016 Bridget H rated it it was ok
Shelves: film
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 ...more
Aug 10, 2011 Joshua rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
I'm not sure what garnered a four star rating for me--Zinoman's actual writing or just the subject matter itself? Anything that is a comprehensive look at horror and exploitation cinema in the 1970s is right in my sweet spot, so Zinoman could have written a terrible book and chances are I would have still enjoyed it. Luckily for him, and me, the book isn't terrible! At times Zinoman goes too detail into describing scenes from films that anyone reading this is already going to know, but for the m ...more
I kind of don't know what to say about this book. There is a ton of interesting information in it, and the author has clearly done his homework. I agree (basically) with what he's saying about the division between old and new horror. I don't disagree with his personal insights into the director's personalities. What bothered me was the writing style.. It felt like a high school essay on horror. He kept rehammering his point home again and again. Ok dude, I get it the first time.. I also personal ...more
The American Conservative
'Zinoman is the first to lay out in such detail how the grisly tropes of even the darkest fringe of 1970s horror came to be so mainstream as to color advertising and Halloween costumes—and inspire countless remakes.

Zinoman’s enthusiastic effort to rehabilitate the most disturbing specimens of horror succeeds mainly in alienating the average, more squeamish reader. But he’s a skilled taxonomist and offers the occasional apt insight about why we watch these movies and how they act upon the audien
Apr 11, 2015 April rated it liked it
Shelves: own, non-fiction, audio
I love books about pop culture. I love books about movies. I have a soft spot for horror films.
Read the rest of my review here
Feb 21, 2012 molly rated it liked it
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
Apr 04, 2016 El_kiablo rated it really liked it
In the acknowledgements at the end of the book Zinoman thanks his editor at Vanity Fair for starting him down the path of writing this book, and that's a connection that makes sense because Shock Value really does feel like a very long article from a glossy magazine. Zinoman argues the book's semi-academic central thesis (namely that a handful of horror films from the late sixties and seventies established all of the current rules for genre entertainment) not as an aesthete or an intellectual bu ...more
Frank Terry
Aug 07, 2014 Frank Terry rated it really liked it
I'm really glad I read this book. I've had it kind of marked, in my mind, as a to read book for several months now. Everytime I've finished a book since like March or April I would want to read this but end up with a reason why I didn't.

So, a few days ago I finally decided to read it and I'm really glad I did. It was really, really informative. I learned a lot of things I didn't know before and it made me want to learn an awful lot more.

The portraits of the directors were all very well done and
Mark R.
Apr 28, 2016 Mark R. rated it really liked it

Jason Zinoman’s excellent book “Shock Value” (subtitled “How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror) gives a detailed, yet very focused, rundown of who and what was responsible for the metamorphosis horror films experienced in the 1970’s.

Horror movies, particularly those produced by Universal, enjoyed popularity in the Depression era, only to be pushed aside in the 40’s and 50’s. A handful of hardworking producers, like Val Lewton and
Lindy Loo
Nov 03, 2011 Lindy Loo rated it it was amazing
This book is so so so good. I only wish it was four times as long, because although it's entertaining and interesting as hell, I feel like it's only scratching the surface on tales that must be so fascinating about the creation of various revolutionary 1960s and 70s horror flicks. If you like horror movies though, you will be smitten with this book.
Jan 29, 2016 Erika rated it really liked it
Shelves: film-tv-media
Overall an excellent look into the development of modern horror, what influenced it and how it's influenced current entertainment. Some of the stories I've heard before but most were, if not fully new, had enough new details to them that I felt I learned something new about these movies and their creators.

I mostly read this book hoping to gain some insight into the popularity of movies such as Last House On The Left or Texas Chainsaw Massacre and while that didn't happen I do have a better appre
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