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

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,291 ratings  ·  178 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
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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 BiskindPictures at a Revolution by Mark  HarrisHitchcock by François TruffautThe Great Movies by Roger EbertAdventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman
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81st out of 395 books — 148 voters
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66th out of 235 books — 43 voters


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Community Reviews

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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 ...more
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
...more
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
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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 ...more
Sarah
Very well-written, interesting, and comprehensive historical narrative about the horror genre in the 1970s and its (drastic and completely intentional) departures from Classic Horror. It was refreshingly free of academic/scholarly analysis (as in Dread of Difference and Final Girl), which is nice for a change. I appreciated the biographical sketches about the directors, which seemed anecdotal enough (i.e., it seemed clear that the author did original interviews) that occasional parallels between ...more
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
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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 ...more
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 ...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
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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
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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
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Joan
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
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Jon Yates
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
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
Alex
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
Joshua
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
Mandyhello
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
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April
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
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
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Frank Terry
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
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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 ...more
Sara
As I said while I was reading it, I would happily read a book this size about the making of any one of these movies. While I didn't always agree with the author's conclusions about the films in question, I very much liked this look at the sort of flip side of Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood.
Lindy Loo
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.
Tonk82
Sesión sangrienta (Titulado más acertadamente en USA: Shock Value) es un recorrido por las películas más importantes de terror que surgieron durante los años 70. Hoy en día se considera una época dorada que supuso una ruptura en la forma de concebir el terror.

Denominado "Nuevo terror" en estados unidos, fueron generalmente películas de bajo presupuesto que se beneficiaron de que los códigos de regulación americanos empezaban a relajarse, y los directores empezaron a ser más realistas y duros.

De
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Paul
I don't know if this will convert any non-fans of the genre, but Shock Value is an excellent overview of the "game-changer" films--and filmmakers--from the 1970s that set Hollywood on its ear and reinvented the horror film for decades to come. Combine it with viewings of the films in question and you'd have a two-credit seminar that I would've given anything to take in college.

After decades of horror films filled with Dracula and Frankenstein, fog-shrouded castles and Vincent Price, the 1970's d
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Artur Coelho
Zinoman centra a sua leve análise das raízes do cinema de terror contemporâneo num momento pivot da história do género: a época entre o final dos anos sessenta e os inícios dos anos oitenta em que o terror chocante, cerebral e amoral atingiu as salas de cinema. Antecedida como um sub-género alimentado de clichès e de uma certa decadência ridícula assente numa iconografia antiquada, e sucedida por um proliferar de obras de grande impacto mediático dependentes de vistosos efeitos especiais embora ...more
Kelly Hager
This is one of my rare forays into nonfiction. It's about horror movies in the 1970s (Psycho, The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead---which is actually from 1968, but whatever---Alien and Halloween, to name a few) and hence the exception was made. :)

To paraphrase a line from Bull Durham, I believe in the church of movies. If you define church as the thing that gets you back to yourself, your BEST self, and revitalizes you for the week ahead? Yes, it's movies. (And I fully concede that I have ne
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Alex
If you want to read bios on the directors of horror in the 70's along with discussion of their first few movies, this book's for you. Unfortunately, this book didn't reveal much that was enlightening to me. Maybe I already know too much about horror and I'm not the target audience. On the flip side, If this book isn't for me, I'm having a hard time figuring out who this is for.

The writing is compelling enough, but I would have liked a little less biography with a little more thematic exploration
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Ramzi
Very interesting in depth analysis of the horror filmmakers of the 70s, their influences and their lasting legacy on the genre and on film as a whole.

What you can expect:

1) Chapters that introduce to us and discuss, in quite a bit of detail, the history and motives of the greats of the 2nd generation of horror writers and directors including Romero, Craven, Carpenter, O'Bannion, De Palma, Polanski, Bogdanovich, Friedkin and Hooper.

2) How those filmmakers conceived their influential works like
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