“In Shock Value, New York Times scribe Zinoman attempts to give these directors the same treatment Peter Biskind gave Spielberg, Scorsese, and Coppola in his magnificent Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. In other words, he explains the filmmakers’ importance while never letting his cultural theorizing get in the way of a good production yarn or intriguing biographical nugget. Zinoman succeeds monstrously well in this mission…there is plenty here to make the most knowledgeable of horror fans’ head explode.”
The New York Times
"Zinoman...concentrates on a handful of films and filmmakers that brought the corpse back to life during the late 1960s and early ’70s, and he convincingly conveys what made movies like 'Night of the Living Dead' and 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' different from anything that had come before: more unsettling, purer in their sense of dread...where Shock Value excels is in its primary research, the stories of how the seminal shockers of this era came to be.”
“Impassioned, articulate prose…Zinoman is such a literate, intelligent defender of the cause that his arguments are well worth reading. Even better, he has a knack for finding the characters in behind-the-scenes theatrics.”
“Not only is Shock Value enormously well-researched — the book is based on the author's interviews with almost all of the movement's principals — it's also an unbelievable amount of fun. Zinoman writes with a strong narrative drive and a contagious charisma.”
“Insightful, revealing, and thoroughly engrossing…Thoroughly researched, Shock Value is chock full of nuggets of insider details that even the most hardcore horror fan might not know.”
Rue Morgue Magazine
“May well prove to be the most indispensable overview of modern horror.”
“Brisk, accessible and incisive...walks a tonal tightrope of entertaining prose and sobering deliberation.”
“Five Stars. The most effortlessly enchanting treatise on the American horror film since Stephen King’s Danse Macabre.... die-hard horror fans will worship it.”
New York Times critic Zinoman's illuminating book examines the period from 1968 to 1979 when a new breed of directors (including Wes Craven, John Carpenter, and George Romero) took a once mocked genre into the mainstream. In analyzing the transition from "Old" to "New" Horror, Zinoman suggests that all directors owe a debt to Alfred Hitchcock, who revolutionized the psychology of the serial killer plot, as well as those philosophers of fear, Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. Zinoman writes with zeal, weaving copycat killers, celebrity stories, and the Manson family into his contextualization of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Carrie, and Halloween. He notes that Night of the Living Dead "did for horror what the Sex Pistols did for punk." Though in-depth director bios and discussion of the changing movie business are fascinating, Zinoman's shot-by-shot descriptions of groundbreaking films and championing of understated gems are even more impressive. This volume reveals just enough to satiate horror aficionados, while offering plenty for curious fright-seekers who want to explore the formative years of what's become a billion-dollar industry. This is the golden age of horror-"Welcome to a cracked world."
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San Francisco Chronicle
Shock Value has a good brain behind it. Zinoman balances his insightful examination of a cultural phenomenon with an appreciation for an often-misunderstood genre.
From the Publisher
"Aficionados should love it, and skeptics may find themselves giving this always disreputable genre the fair shake that, as this smart and savvy book makes clear, it deserves." ---Mark Harris, author of Pictures at a Revolution
The golden era of the "Old Horror" film featured such enduring classics as Dracula and Frankenstein, but they now seem as tame as buttermilk compared with the key films that have been produced during the so-called New Horror era beginning in the 1970s. These include such seminal American films as Rosemary's Baby, The Last House on the Left, Night of the Living Dead, and The Exorcist, many of which could be termed "gore fests." In a sometimes chatty, sometimes scattershot, but quite readable style, Zinoman, a theater critic and reporter for the New York Times, discusses in detail a few films and such pioneering genre directors as John Carpenter, George Romero, William Friedkin, and Wes Craven. They often defied aghast critics (and sometimes studio moguls and audiences as well) to present their view of a world gone mad. VERDICT Given the plethora of available books about horror films, including recent scholarly ones such as Kendall Phillips's Projected Fears and Thomas M. Sipos's Horror Film Aesthetics, this will appeal mostly to readers seeking a general overview.—Roy Liebman, Los Angeles P.L.
An entertaining history of the metamorphosis of the horror film during the 1970s from a cult genre to a major part of mainstream Hollywood.
Today's filmgoers may think nothing of going to the local multiplex to see the latest incarnation of theSawfranchise, but New York Times theater reporter Zinoman reminds us of a time when such fare was restricted to drive-ins, while "mainstream" horror consisted of cheesy Vincent Price movies or vampire films from Britain's Hammer studios.The change is attributed to a group of maverick writers and directors including Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and George Romero, makers of such films a Night of the Living Dead,The Last House on the Left,The Texas Chainsaw MassacreandHalloween, which created a new type of horror based on reality instead of fantasy.The author investigates the cultural conditions that made the "New Horror" possible, and Zinoman is particularly interested in the personal aspects of the genre, including the influence of the creators' family lives and the idea that the appeal of horror movies is closely tied to childhood experiences.The author deeply explores the transition from the grindhouse to the mainstream theater through such movies asRosemary's Baby,Carrie andThe Exorcist, as well as the commercialization of the genre into the sequel-producing monster of today. Zinoman sometimes stretches a bit with his psychoanalyses, and the narrative structure can be somewhat awkward, but the characters and stories behind the films are engaging enough to keep even casual readers involved.The author also includes interviews and first-person recollections with many of the participants, and there is no shortage of juicy gossip, notably the falling-out between Carpenter and his film-school partner andAliencreator Dan O'Bannon. Like many trailblazers, O'Bannon and others, including Hooper, often failed to profit from their influential work, and Zinoman argues that the promise of the New Horror remains largely unfulfilled.
An engrossing look at an important cultural moment and a valuable addition to the canon of popular film history.