If you’re keeping track, and I’m not sure why you would be at this point, I’m still muddling through Stephen King’s The Stand. And yet, I stray away from time to time to check out other books like Jason Zinoman’s Shock Value, which I stumbled across while looking for various horror films in my library’s database. With a subtitle like How A Few Eccentric Outsiders Gabe Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, And Invented Modern Horror, how could I not bite, especially around Halloween!
As much as I love horror movies, I haven’t done much reading on the genre’s history outside of Wikipedia entries and hearing things on podcasts or in other interviews. So, this was a nice dive into the era of horror films basically beginning with Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and ending with Alien, an era mostly in the 70s that was dubbed New Horror.
In other words, Zinoman covers the era of horror where it got GOOD and SCARY. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, Last House On The Left, Carrie, Night Of The Living Dead and even Dark Star spend time in the spotlight, complete with interviews.
I probably could have read a version of this book that’s twice the size, if not triple, because Zinoman has such a mastery of conveying all of this information in a conversational tone. Sure, it helps that I’m already somewhat familiar with many of these films, but I think a novice could jump in and not have any trouble staying afloat.
Here’s a few interesting tidbits that are covered in the book that I didn’t really know much about. First! My beloved Vincent Price apparently appeared on a talk show with the worst villain in comic books, Fredrick Wertham while the latter went on a new crusade, this time against scary films. I tried and failed to find the clip itself on YouTube. Second! I did not realize that Sean Cunningham — who would go on to direct Friday The 13th — had a hand in making Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left. Third! Peter Bogdonovich made a movie called Targets with Boris Karloff for Roger Corman that I very much want to see. And Fourth! I learned a lot about Dan O’Bannon, his relationship with Carpenter and now want to watch Jodorowsky’s Dune even more than I already did.
At the end of the day, if you’re really into horror and maybe not all that well read on its history, then you can’t go wrong picking up Zinoman’s Shock Value!