Author Jason Zinoman Responds to the Critique of his BookThis week's book review of Jason Zinoman's Shock Value inspired some very interesting Thoughts...by Jason Zinoman. Reviewer Bryce Wilson responded back and the result was an enlightening exchange between critic and author that is as informative as it is voyeuristically satisfying: JASON ZINOMAN POSTED ON AUGUST 15, 2011:
Bryce, I liked your list of five movies I did not mention in Shock Value – every one worthy of its own book. And I’m not sure why you think I am denigrating film-makers who I don’t mention. The book is not a survey of horror movies in the 20th century. It’s a reported book ( i sure tried to have every interview for an extended period of time although it was usually in chairs, not couches) about a discrete period in horror that I do believe was a golden age, but that does not mean i don’t believe that great horror wasn’t made before or after. As for the auteur theory, to clarify: I find it useful, but through my reporting, I came to the conclusion that these movies were often much more works of collaboration than they have been given credit for.
But what’s most strange is your assertion that the response among horror fans has been muted or hostile. We could compare what we’ve heard from friends and movie people but that’s silly. This is a book that has received dozens of reviews, most of them from the horror press. You don’t mention any of them. So the evidence is easy to find. Check out Fangoria or Bloody Disgusting or Freddy in Space or Monsterland or Retro Slashers or any of the many, many others (Shock Value FB page has close to them all). I disagree with you that they are a “notoriously booster happy bunch.” I have been hugely impressed by the quality of thought and prose of the reviews from the horror press. You would benefit from taking a look.
Best, Jason Zinoman
I can certainly understand what you are saying and you make good points.
First though I want to say that I have to stand by what I say about the bias the book takes against Pre ’68 Horror films. You’re absolutely correct that omitting the study of films and filmmakers alone wouldn’t be denigration but as your thesis tends to describe “old horror” in terms of camp and gimmicks, as kids stuff. With phrases like “Karloff represented the cobwebs of a spooky castle, cheap advertising campaigns, the lurching monster-in other words old horror.” And “Romero mocks the conventions of the Old Horror movie as betraying any sense of reality.” You are criticizing the films implicitly if not explicitly and in a way I simply felt wasn’t accurate. I bet most people today would find Freaks tougher watch than Last House On The Left (Which I think Stephen King summed up nicely as “Abbot And Costello Meet The Rapists”.) And I think Val Lewton certainly made more than “modest Freudian films.”
That said, I can certainly understand your position on the auteur theory, and of course with the extensive research you’ve done you’re more than earned it. It’s just the sudden right turn that was taken at the DePalma chapter that through me. As I will admit it is mostly the Hitchcock material that inspired “The Couch” comment. (
As for the reviews, it is true that I made my comment based mostly on dialogue with other horror fans. I try to keep up with as much horror literature as I can (My go to girl on that front remains Stacie Ponder, with a side of Drew McWeeney, and some Scott Weinberg as well.) but I will cite Bill Ryan, and the afore mentioned Glenn Kenny, just to demonstrate what I’m saying isn’t unfounded. I would go ahead and add The Deadly Doll’s House Of Horror Nonsense to your list of popular reviews. In hindsight mixed would be a more appropriate word than muted. Though I think I said what I meant to the first time out which was merely “curious” and in reference as much to the positive response by the mainstream.
That said, I will also stand by my comment that horror fans are a booster happy bunch. As I meant it as a sincere compliment. What other group of fandom is more or less self sustaining? Just look at “Before The Mask’s” Facebook Page, I’ve seen horror fans rally around something they really love too many times for it to be otherwise. They might not always succeed (The swift retraction of Hatchet II from AMC theaters springs to mind) but they always give it their best shot. If Attack The Block goes nation wide it will be because of them. There’s a lot of truth in this Faracci article (http://www.chud.com/19627/chud-quick-list-6-reasons-why-horror-fans-make-the-best-film-fans/
Anyway I certainly have an enormous amount of respect for what you’ve accomplished, the amount of work you put into it and your passion. I was sincere when I made the compliment about starting a dialogue with people who usually wouldn’t. If we disagree in a some key places in our understanding of the genre that’s natural. Hopefully you understand the spirit of debate it is intended in.
All The Best,