Zane's Reviews > Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror

Shock Value by Jason Zinoman
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's review
Apr 30, 2012

it was amazing
Read in April, 2012

Without speculating as to why, so many books about the history of 'new horror' are written at two extremes. On the one end is the posturing academic, on the other, articles that review films based on number of boobs. Shock Value eschews these styles and is presented in a well-written and fun, if brief, history of the change in the film language of horror in the 1970's.

Did you know Bernard Hermann who did the music for Vertigo, Psycho and other Hitchcock films transitioned into producing scores for exploitation films in the 70's? What about that William Castle bought the rights to Rosemary's Baby but studios thought him too old, so they brought in Polanski who applied his paranoid, wide-angle shooting style to occult horror? Did you know Polanski lectured on the 'techne' of fear at USC with John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon in the audience as students? That George Romero was driving to pitch Night of the Living Dead to a distributor the day MLK was shot?

Throwing the complexity of causality out the window, this book identifies some important points of transition in the aesthetics of horror cinema. It also provides fascinating quotes capturing the negative attitude of reviewers at the time for films that are now considered classics. If you are interested in the history of film, you should probably read this book. I recommend pairing it with Maggie Nelson's 'The Art of Cruelty'. They could fight about the aesthetics of gore and humiliation, which might make someone think.

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