Shock Value

Few people I know share my fondness for late 1970s horror movies. Actually, not ALL late 70s horror movies. I never liked the Friday 13th series, or any of the Halloweens that followed the first one. Tobe Hooper’s output after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was just too OTT for me. The Exorcist has its moments – the best dream sequence in any movie ever – but I also find it a little OTT. And I really disliked Last House On The Left. But I could happily watch Halloween, Alien, The Hills Have Eyes, Dawn of the Dead and Carrie right now, this minute.

What I love about this book is that it offers long, movie-buff-friendly chapters on all of the films listed above, as well as Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Dressed to Kill. (Plus a lot of others I can’t remember as I sit here writing this.) They’re all fascinating, packed with information about what went into the making of each, how they were received by audiences and critics, and what happened to the careers of the directors in later years.

I’ve read reviews online that attack this book for its mistakes – Taxi Driver does NOT begin with Travis Bickle talking about washing the scum off the streets – but that kind of nit-picking always annoys me. Perfection is for God and angels. What I think Jason Zinoman does really well is tell great stories about all the films and document the point at which old horror movies – Dracula, Frankenstein et al – gave way to what he calls the New Horror, and how it grew out of the society of the 70s.

I loved it.


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