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

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,190 ratings  ·  261 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 July 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  2,190 ratings  ·  261 reviews

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Wil Wheaton
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
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.
Jul 10, 2011 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
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
best to worst

brian depalma
dressed to kill
blow out
femme fatale
snake eyes
hi mom!
body double
the fury
phantom of the paradise
carlito's way
raising cain
mission impossible
wise guys
casualties of war
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
Carla Remy
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Mike McPadden
Oct 31, 2013 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 cre
Aug 23, 2011 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
Baal Of
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: blood-sausage
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 ...more
Bridget H
Apr 18, 2015 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
Jill Hutchinson
Mar 25, 2015 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 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, horror, movies
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
Jul 13, 2011 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
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.
Dec 15, 2020 marked it as to-read
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! ...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
Dec 28, 2011 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
Aug 21, 2011 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
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
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: film-television
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
Loser's Club Book Reviews
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Brian Cohen
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.
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
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Brian Joynt
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Cool Papa
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
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." ...more
James Oxyer
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oct 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative and fun read into the history of the major horror movies from the 70's. ...more
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great exploration of horror genre and the people who created it and made it mainstream. Cool read for fans of the genre.
Frank Maccormack
Apr 10, 2012 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
Aug 22, 2011 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
Nov 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, horror
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
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