Shock Value by Jason Zinoman | Audiobook Review

Shock Value by Jason Zinoman | Audiobook ReviewShock Value by Jason Zinoman
Narrator: Pete Larkin
Length: 8 Hours 56 Minutes
Published by Penguin on July 7th 2011
Genres: 20th Century, Film & Video, History, History & Criticism, Modern, Performing Arts
Pages: 288
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon

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 classic movies, a parallel universe of directors gave birth to the modern horror film-aggressive, raw, and utterly original. Based on unprecedented access to the genre's major players, The New York Times's critic Jason Zinoman's Shock Value delivers the first definitive account of horror's golden age. By the late 1960s, horror was stuck in the past, confined mostly to drive-in theaters and exploitation houses, and shunned by critics. Shock Value tells the unlikely story of how the much-disparaged horror film became an ambitious art form while also conquering the multiplex. Directors such as Wes Craven, Roman Polanski, John Carpenter, and Brian De Palma- counterculture types operating largely outside the confines of Hollywood-revolutionized the genre, exploding taboos and bringing a gritty aesthetic, confrontational style, and political edge to horror. Zinoman recounts how these directors produced such classics as Rosemary's Baby, Carrie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween, creating a template for horror that has been imitated relentlessly but whose originality has rarely been matched. This new kind of film dispensed with the old vampires and werewolves and instead assaulted audiences with portraits of serial killers, the dark side of suburbia, and a brand of nihilistic violence that had never been seen before. Shock Value tells the improbable stories behind the making of these movies, which were often directed by obsessive and insecure young men working on shoestring budgets, were funded by sketchy investors, and starred porn stars. But once The Exorcist became the highest grossing film in America, Hollywood took notice. The classic horror films of the 1970s have now spawned a billion-dollar industry, but they have also penetrated deep into the American consciousness. Quite literally, Zinoman reveals, these movies have taught us what to be afraid of. Drawing on interviews with hundreds of the most important artists in horror, Shock Value is an enthralling and personality-driven account of an overlooked but hugely influential golden age in American film.

Why Did I Listen To This Audiobook?

Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror by Jason Zinoman has the kind of title that appeals to me. I love books about pop culture. I love books about movies. I have a soft spot for horror films. Also? Shock Value is a ridiculously short audiobook which makes it an ideal listen for when you are need of a palate cleanser between audiobooks.

What’s It All About?

Zinoman’s audiobook, Shock Value is another in a long line of books where the subtitle essentially gives away the topic. Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror is about the masters of modern horror films. It’s about John Carpenter. It’s about Wes Craven. It’s about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s actually a pretty interesting listen if you are the sort of person who likes scary movies. There’s even a small part where the film Scary Movie is mentioned. Mostly, I was a fan. Also? This book made me want to watch some horror films on Netflix.

What Did I Learn?

To be quite honest, this book was sort of in one ear and out the other to me. Like, I feel like maybe I learned some stuff, but overall, I would fail a test based on this book, like if in some parallel universe, I had to take tests based on books that I finished.

However, the part that stuck out to me the most was when the book talked about John Carpenter’s Halloween. The book talks about how Michael Myers is so scary specifically because he’s the embodiment of the boogie man. There’s no rhyme or reason to why Michael is such a scary guy. There’s not really a motivation assigned to his actions in the first movie. Then the book goes on to talk about Rob Zombie’s version of Halloween and how while it’s more gory, it lacks compared to the original. An assessment that I fully agree with.

Who Should Listen To This Audiobook?

  • Horror movie aficionados
  • Film buffs
  • People who have to go for drives on dark and winding roads in the rain (myself at one point while listening to this book)

How’s The Narration?

Shock Value by Jason Zinoman is narrated by Pete Larkin and is nearly nine hours long — eight hours and fifty six minutes long to be precise. It’s a fast listen though. I finished this book in a matter of days. Unfortunately, I did not love the narration. I am not quite able to put my finger on why, but I would often zone out and stop paying attention. I think that as an audiobook, this is an okay listen. It’s not my favorite, however, I have heard worse before listening to this book and will like hear worse after. If you want an audiobook about an interesting topic that won’t take very long to get through, then I think overall you will like Shock Value.

Sum It Up With A GIF:

I am quite positive in my feelings about this book because of how much time it spends on Halloween.

About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. […] Books and Good Wine reviews Shock Value, by Jason Zinoman, narrated by Pete […]

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