TerrorCon 2017 and the short films of XX (2017)

Hey everyone. A couple of quick items:

First of all: This weekend (Feb. 25th-26th) Black T-Shirt Books will be repping hard at TerrorCon 2017 in Providence, RI.

If you’re in New England, I encourage you to stop by. The guest list is insane and I’ll be there slinging books alongside superpals Matt Serafini and Patrick Lacey. Hope to see you there.

Second of all: thank you. The response to Video Night, The Summer Job, and Zero Lives Remaining being re-released has been truly incredible.

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As a quick tip for anyone who’s purchased the paperback editions of any of these books (even if they were the old editions): through Kindle Matchbook you’re eligible to get a FREE ebook copy of the new edition. Just make sure you’re logged into the same Amazon account and that the kindle book rings up $0.00 before you click to purchase. Even if you’re a technophobe: claim your free ebooks because it helps out the books visibility on Amazon.

Lastly but certainly not leastly: I managed to get an episode of Project: Black T-Shirt up in observance of Women in Horror Month. In the episode I do a segment-by-segment rundown of XX, the new multi-director anthology film. Spoiler alert for the video, but: I recommend you check this movie out. Especially if you’re a Jack Ketchum fan, as it includes a great adaptation of one of his best (and most anthologized) stories.


As always: views, likes, comments, and subscribes on the YouTube page help me out immensely.

That’s all for tonight. Hope to see you at the show and thank you again for reading (and reviewing on Amazon) these books. I wouldn’t be able to keep writing if it weren’t for your generous support.

I Am The Pretty Ghost Kaiju That Destroyed Germany

Hey guys and gals,

Quick catch-up post just to dump some links tonight.

First of all: thanks to everyone who came out to the KGB Bar reading last week. Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, Nick Cato, and Leza Cantoral were all awesome. And an extra special big thanks to Christoph Paul for hosting and inviting me to participate.

But speaking of Christoph, I give his new horror film poetry book a shout out in this week’s episode of Project Black T-Shirt. We also discuss the Netflix original film I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House(2016), written and directed by Osgood Perkins and starring Ruth Wilson. I liked it a lot, but click here to find out why.

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Another huge thanks to author/photographer Jonathan Lees, who took this awesome picture while I was reading:

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The week before that I was reviewing Shin Godzilla, which I caught during its limited theatrical run and lived to tell the tale about. That’s right here.

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This week I celebrated a huge milestone in my career with the German-language release of Tribesmen. A huge thank you to Voodoo Press for taking a chance on me overseas. If you’re a German reader, please click over to their website to pick up your copy in ebook or paperback. Here’s that sweet sweet German cover:

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Other than that, things are all quiet on my front. My newest novel, The Con Season, has been selling unbelievably well, probably due to the release of the audiobook and the kind words from everyone who’s taken the time to leave an Amazon review. Just a quick public service reminder that the audiobook’s actually cheaper if you buy the Kindle version ($2.99) and then the audio ($1.99) as opposed to buying the audio straight-out.

Have a great week!

Getting in the Halloween spirit (plus Splatterpunk lives!)

Hey y’all,

It’s been a spell (a couple months) since I checked in on the blog and offered an update. If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube I’ve been just as gabby as usual.

Project: Black T-Shirt has been going strong, with weekly video uploads and this week’s is one I’m particularly proud of. It’s a list of 6 great books to get you in that Halloween state-of-mind. Authors like Paul Tremblay, Gillian Flynn, and Bracken MacLeod show up, so please go check it out here. If you’ve got titles of your own you’d like to share: please speak up in the comments.

Speaking of Bracken MacLeod: we’re going to be selling books next weekend at Rock and Shock in Worcester, MA. Author Patrick Lacey will also be joining us at the table, so if you’re going to be at the con: please come by the table and say hi. Maybe even buy a book, both Pat and Bracken have new ones (Dream Woods and Stranded, respectively).

Rock and Shock is always a great time (I’ve been going since the second year, and even though I now live in Philly it’s a great excuse to go sip Dunkin Donuts in New England once a year). It’s a special show: if you’re in the area I guarantee you’ll be happy you went.

Also, if you’re tracking my movements: I’ll be reading at KGB Bar in NYC on October 26th along with Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, Nick Cato, and Christoph Paul (who’s also hosting). If you’re a New Yorker or are willing to travel: I’d love to see you.

In keeping with the Halloween theme: Sinister Grin Press has put All-Night Terror (my collaborative collection with Matt Serafini) on sale for 2 bucks. That’s cheap as hell! If you pick up the book: please consider leaving a quick review when you’re done.

 

 

Lastly but not leastly: if you’re looking for a NEW Halloween treat from me I’ve got a story in Jack Bantry’s new collection Splatterpunk’s Not Dead! There are a ton of great authors in here, and it’s all new stories, so you don’t have to worry about getting skunked with a reprint. My story “Please Subscribe” has already been selected for next year’s Year’s Best Hardcore Horror from Comet Press. So I’m happy with it.

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Other than that, no big publishing news. I’m slowly chipping away at a number of projects, all of them still secret at this point. While you’re waiting for the new stuff: have you read The Con Season? If so: leave a review and then go check out some of the authors in the video at the top of this post.

I’ll have new scares for you soon.

Best,

Adam

 

 

Surprise! THE CON SEASON is available NOW!

First the good news: you can click here, right now, and secure yerself a copy of The Con Season: A Novel of Survival Horror. That’s the ebook link, but paperback will be out in a month or two if you’re an absolute tree-hating physical media diehard.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Horror movie starlet Clarissa Lee is beautiful, internationally known, and…completely broke.

To cap off years of questionable financial and personal decisions, Clarissa accepts an invitation to participate in a “fully immersive” fan convention. She arrives at an off-season summer camp and finds what was supposed to be a quick buck has become a real-life slasher movie.

Deep in the woods of Kentucky with a supporting cast of B-level celebrities, Clarissa must fight to survive the deadly game that the con’s organizers have rigged against her.

A demented, funny, bloody, and strangely-poignant horror novel from the acclaimed author of Tribesmen, Zero Lives Remaining, and Mercy House.

Go ahead and buy the book before scrolling any further.

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I’ll wait.

Now the not-so-good news: if you nominated the book, probably already you know that Kindle Scout has decided to pass on publishing The Con Season.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s a bit of a bummer. I feel like our numbers game was strong, but I also understand where the editors are coming from.

This book—an inside-baseball horror fandom satire with moments of blackly comedic ultraviolence—probably doesn’t scream “marketable!” It also doesn’t help that their cover guidelines suggest “no weapons or blood” and I was trying to sneak in a book featuring a blood-smeared woman holding a rifle…

Or all of that could be me trying to justify them simply not liking the book. I’m big enough to admit that.

But enough about the past! Let’s talk about the future. More specifically, let’s talk about Black T-Shirt Books!

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Boom! We got a logo and everything. Huge thanks to Chris Enterline for getting that done.

I wasn’t messing around in last month’s post where I claimed to have “contingency plans” in place for The Con Season. As touched as I am at all the messages of condolence that I’ve received for being passed by Scout: really, it’s cool, nobody died!

I entered into this campaign knowing that having the book rejected was a very real possibility. I had to hand KS a completely edited manuscript and final cover art: so I was always viewing the program as an experiment in self-publishing.

And now that experiment is live and YOU get to decide if it keeps going or not.

Will Black T-Shirt books be releasing more titles? Yeah, if you and a few friends buy, review, and share this one.

I know I harp on the need for reviews (seriously, not just my books, if you read ANY book and like it: please review that ish on Amazon, you’ll be helping make quality writing more visible). But this time, since Black T-Shirt books is me doing this all by myself without the backing of a publisher, reviews are doubly important. As is word of mouth, shares on Facebook and Twitter, and updates to your Goodreads.

And if the Black T-Shirt Books experiment doesn’t succeed? Well, then it’s back to the drawing board, because we all know I’ve got schemes and machinations and secret-books for miles. 🙂

Thanks so much for everything, guys and gals, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support.

With love,

Adam Cesare
CEO and Master of Shirts at Black T-Shirt Books

P.S. New episodes of the YouTube show are up:

An early review of Evil Dead remake director Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe:

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And a less-SEO friendly review of 1984’s The Mutilator, recently reissued by Arrow Video: 

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The TRIBESMEN post: To thine own self-promotion be true


Hello dearest Reader,

You may not know this, but not only do I write (intermittently) about obscure films and books, I also write fiction.

In the past I’ve posted links to various magazines my work has appeared in, but this time things are slightly different. This time I’ve got a whole book all to myself and it’s being released as part of John Skipp’s new Ravenous Shadows imprint.

Tribesmen is a 30,000 word novella (meaning it will take roughly the same amount of time as a feature film) and it’s available right now for your amazon Kindle (or the Kindle iphone/android/PC app, if you’re not into the whole e-reader scene).

Here’s the official synopsis:

In the early 80’s – at the height of the ultra-violent “Italian cannibal” grindhouse film craze – a small international cast and crew descend on an isolated Caribbean island, hoping to crassly exploit the native talent.

But the angry, undead spirits of the island have a different, more original script in mind. And as horror after staggering horror unfolds, the camera keeps rolling. To the blood-spattered end…

If you read this blog regularly, it’s up your alley. But don’t take my word for it. Check out the incredible authors who were generous enough to blurb me:

“The best new writer I’ve read in years. Wonderfully lean prose and edge-of-your-seat thrills. Drop everything else and start reading Tribesmen.”

Nate Kenyon, author of Sparrow Rock and Starcraft Ghost: Spectres

Tribesmen is a gory and clever homage to those Italian cannibal flicks that we all love so dearly, but without the real-life animal cruelty! Highly recommended.”

Jeff Strand, author of Pressure and Wolf Hunt.

“Sometimes everything goes wrong, in the best possible way. Think Snuff and Cannibal Holocaust meeting at a midnight movie. And then give one of them a camera, the other a knife.”

Stephen Graham Jones, author of It Came from Del Rio, Demon Theory and The Ones That Got Away

There you go, that’s my pitch. If you’re curious but not sold, you can send a free sample to your Kindle (the first 1 and 1/2 chapters, I believe).

Check it out here and if you do pick it up, please consider writing a quick review.

Thanks for your time,

Adam

Update: if you are a nook user, the ebook is now also available at Barnes and Noble.

NOT a ghost story, ghosts don’t know they’re dead: Haunt by Laura Lee Bahr

Laura Lee Bahr’s debut novel Haunt is the literary equivalent to a Rubik’s Cube. Maybe that analogy won’t hold up for everyone, but it certainly does for me because there’s no way in hell I’ll ever be able to solve a Rubik’s Cube.

I don’t mean to imply that the plot is based on an indecipherable puzzle (although there is a strong mystery thread that weaves through the pagecount). What I mean is that even when Haunt is at its most frustrating: it’s always fun.

What on the outset looks to be a multi-perspective story about the intersecting lives of three different characters turns into an ever-shifting (and ever-collapsing) meditation on storytelling, relationships, metaphysics and, ultimately, life itself.

The plot (as far as it is summarizable) concerns Richard, a broski from Middle America who’s recently moved to LA, Sarah, the spirit who haunts his apartment and Simon, the magnetically dashing journalist who’s somehow tied up in Sarah’s death (or is he?). If that sounds vague and confusing…it is. This is a difficult book to summarize not only because I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but because Bahr herself is constantly messing with the chronology, reliability and even the planes of reality within her novel.

In the introduction, editor John Skipp reveals that the book was originally intended to utilize a “Choose your own adventure” structure. I’m glad that the gimmick was jettisoned, because what Haunt is now is a multi-tiered adventure where you have no choice, even when one is being offered to you. It’s a puzzle where some of the pieces are missing and where some were never meant to fit together in the first place. The result is invigorating.

Bahr’s book is colorful, beguiling and intelligent without ever feeling snooty or overindulgent. It’s a book that straddles a number of lines effortlessly: it strikes just the right balance between highbrow and lowbrow; it never lets its perplexing nature overshadow the reader’s sense of forward momentum or atmosphere. As far as it dives into the surreal, Bahr’s prose always feels grounded, the way I feel art like this needs to be for maximum enjoyment (think David Lynch or earlier Darren Aronofsky).

Highly recommended for the adventurous readers among you (and I’d like to think that’s all of you, so don’t disappoint me).

Catching up with Andrew: Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary)


I’ve been a fan of Jeff Strand’s work for a few years now, but I’ve never picked up his earlier work (hop in the ole time machine and read about my first exposure to Strand right here. Why was I underlining titles back then? Was it my 5th grade book report?). More specifically I’ve never read his Andrew Mayhem series of horror/comedy/thrillers. Last month saw the re-release of the first three Mayhem books in spiffy* new digital editions (that are intended to prepare readers for the forth), so I decided to give the first title a whirl.

I really had no idea what to expect with Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary). I’m not much a fan of ongoing series, so would it feel too TV-ish to me? Would Strand’s prose be as funny and dry as his later work? How would I be able to fear for a character’s safety when I know they’ll be around for at least three more books?

The answer: those were all stupid questions and I should stop being a doubting Thomas.

Graverobbers is a ghoulish rocket that runs on the propulsive combination of its ludicrous plot and the likeably doofy voice of its narrator. Andrew’s first adventure is as enjoyable as he is inept.

The book is labeled as an “Andrew Mayhem Thriller” but I think “Mystery” would give perspective readers a better idea what to expect. Andrew may be a schmuck, but he’s still a detective in the tradition of Sherlock, Marlowe, Spade and Lew Archer. The clue elements may not be as integral to the overall success of the book as its humor and gore are, but there’s a mystery going on here nonetheless.

If we need further evidence to prove that Strand’s playing around with the genre of Chandler and Hammett, there’s also that great hardboiled cliché of the protagonist getting knocked around. Andrew is pummeled, shot and stabbed for our amusement, so even if he can’t detect, he’s got that in common with his forebearers.

Even if when all this violence that is perpetrated on poor Andrew, we don’t feel that the stakes are quite high enough, Strand ratchets up the tension by throwing some innocents into the fold. Where the aforementioned detectives are all aloof lone-wolves, Andrew’s got a family to protect and we can’t help but fear for them.

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is three bucks, you should check it out.
If the sign of a good series can be measured in the amount of time it takes a reader to purchase the next book, then let it be known that I finished the transaction for Single White Psychopath Seeks Same a minute after reaching “The End.” If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

*With striking covers by Strand’s wife, author Lynne Hansen.

In Every Dream Home a Heartache: Dream Home (2010)


I’ve always been interested in the way different governments codify and deal with “extreme” media. Like most horror fans this means that I have a fascination with (and healthy fear of) censorship. Although many enjoy griping about America’s film certification board, the MPAA, it’s important to remember that it is an independent, not governmental body. In many countries this is not the case, and though there are many problems with the MPAA, it does not have the power to ban a film outright.

This stuff is not ancient history (the Thatcher-era “Video Recordings Act” was during the late 80s, and even this year the UK banned Human Centipede II claiming no amount of cuts would get the film certified) nor is it restricted to the Brits (see Australia’s recent crack down on violent video games) but I would argue that no area of the world has a more interesting ratings system in place than Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s certification system (established in the late 1980s, before which there were no ratings but harsh restrictions on what could appear onscreen) is a series of categories capped off with the highly permissive Category III rating (Cat III). Cat III films require the viewer to be over 18, and although pornography is not permitted in HK (on the black market, such content is referred to as “Cat IV”) Cat III films are allowed to have a level of sex and violence (and often times a combination of the two) that would make any other ratings board balk.

Unlike the MPAA’s restrictive (and seldom used) NC-17, many films are produced specifically to carry the label of Cat III. Although many varieties of films find themselves carrying the label, within the HK horror genre, the certification led to the formation of a loose subgenre of cheaply produced HK splatter films. Films like Ebola Syndrome, Dr. Lamb and Daughter of Darkness consistently smash the boundaries of good taste, but have probably never been anyone’s idea of cerebral, highbrow international cinema. Ho-Cheung Pang’s Dream Home (2010) is not one of those films. It may be a Cat III horror film, it may contain stomach churning scenes of violence and brutality, but where the goal of the films mentioned above is taboo-breaking, Dream Home has satiric, intelligent and artistic aspirations…

But if that’s not your thing it also has a woman being suffocated using a vacuum cleaner, a plastic bag and a zip-tie. Yikes.

In fact, the violence in Dream Home is so extreme that cuts had to be made in Hong Kong just so it could be a Cat III film. If this doesn’t pique your interest, then you’ve probably haven’t seen some of these movies. I have no facts to back this up, but I have a feeling that the reason the HK ratings board was so hard on Dream Home was how GOOD the film looks.

This is one of the slickest horror movies you’ve ever seen, and the gorgeous photography only serves to enhance the unsettlingly well-executed gore effects. Speaking of gore, the FX are mostly practical with slight digital embellishments. Dream Home could be used as a good counteragument to those diehards who naysay digital gore. As with any tool, it just has to be used correctly.

The plot is simple: Cheng (the quite fetching Josie Ho) is a middle class gal with aspirations of being an upper-middle class gal. She’s going to get there by securing the apartment of her dreams (hence the title), but given HK’s economy and impenetrable housing market that’s easier said than done. In many ways this is the world’s first “real estate horror” movie, and to make it a lot less boring than it sounds the narrative is fractured. We jump back and forth in Cheng’s life, from her childhood to the point where she decides to take up arms (a box cutter, some zip-ties and her grandfather’s toolbelt) against the tenants of a luxury high-rise. This temporal hopscotch ensures that a splatter set-piece is delivered about once every ten minutes, keeping our attention.

I love the ideas that fuel the film, I love parts of the film, but I do not love Dream Home.

Like the best genre works, Dream Home is a movie that engages the world around it. It is a movie that not only offers entertainment (of a pitch-dark variety) but also societal commentary. Although it is steeped in localisms, you don’t have to know a bunch about the history of Hong Kong to enjoy it (in fact, there is a brief text primer on the Chinese “handover” and Hong Kong’s political and economic situation at the beginning of the film). If anything, it helps looking at the movie with American eyes: these desires and economic woes are universal.

Dream Home is a difficult movie to discuss, because I think I enjoy it a whole lot more in theory than I do in execution. It’s got problems. And chief among them is pacing. The movie starts with its best sequences, by the middle the audience can predict the ending (down to the final shot), and in the end the crescendo it tries to build to is the only action sequence that rings hollow.

So do I recommend you seek it out? Yes. With enough blood spillage to appeal to gorehounds and enough thought behind it that it will appeal to pseudo-academics like myself, the film is worth it although I doubt it will 100% satisfy either camp.

Dream House is on Netflix Instant in HD (which is probably as good/slightly better than the DVD if you have a fast enough connection). If you’re a Netflix ex-pat, there’s always Amazon.

It was released uncut stateside by IFC, so kudos to them (they also gave a release to the excellent Pontypool. It seems that as they decline as a network, they’re growing as a distribution channel). I don’t speak Cantonese, but I do have to say that the subtitles seem a little hinky. Then again, maybe that’s how the dialog sounds in it’s original language. Sadly there seems to be no blu-ray in any country, that’s a shame because the film is very nice looking.

How are they going to stay in this house for more than a season? American Horror Story and the “New TV”


If you haven’t noticed that television has changed over the last 6 or 7 years, then you probably don’t own a television. Thanks to HBO (The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire), hour long dramas are no longer restricted to crime-of-the-week police procedurals and night-time soaps. And, more recently, thanks to shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Battlestar Galactica, they’re no longer limited to pay-cable either. With nuanced character work, complex narrative arcs that can take tens of hours to mature and evolve, and budgets to rival the best Hollywood can muster, in many ways this “New TV” is a genre all its own.

This year I haven’t seen every pilot, but most of the new shows I’ve sampled have been quite dismal. Many were even “didn’t make it through half an episode”-level dismal. Serial television is both a commitment and a gamble, not just for networks but for viewers. Not only is it incredibly difficult to line up all the variables and produce something worthwhile, but who wants to invest seven hours in something that may not even make it to a season finale? Or three hours, if you were one of the handful of people tuning in to NBC’s The Playboy Club?

So what does this idea of the “New TV” have to do with FX’s American Horror Story? Judging from the pilot, I’m not sure.

What I am sure of is that I really enjoyed the pilot. This doesn’t tell us a whole lot about whether the show will evolve into one of the shining examples like I listed above, or devolve into the same-y crap that clogs our airwaves. Not too harp on the “what ifs” too much, but it must be said that I feel showrunners Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have a history with such de-evolution. The first seasons of their pre-Horror Story shows (the ultradark, sexed-up soap Nip/Tuck and the still-running Glee) offered great promise upfront but ultimately delved into self-parody and banality in their later years.

But let’s look at the positives, shall we? We’ve been given one hour, and it’s a damn fine hour. American Horror Story’s first episode is an unholy patchwork of so many influences and references that a viewer has to ask themselves: at what number of influences does homage stop being a retread and enter back into the realm of wholly original? If there is such a point, I think Horror Story surpasses it.

I’ve heard a lot of comparisons to Dark Shadows, which is valid, but there are also shades of Twin Peaks, Lar’s Von Trier’s The Kingdom, The Addams Family, Matheson’s Hell House. Most of all it reminds me of the 90s short-lived, but fondly-remembered (at least by me) series American Gothic.

These are all good influences, but Horror Story is also blessed (cursed?) with the one of the genre’s more recent, less-than-admirable trends: MTV-ization. By this I mean the frenetic, often distracting and nonsensical way that most ADD-addled material seems to be presented to young audiences these days. In the pilot, there’s not 30 seconds that go by without a jump cut, a trippy in-camera zoom, a subliminal flash of “disturbing” (and often arbitrary) imagery. Luckily, the rest of what’s on display is so pleasing that these stylistic annoyances are forgivable, and in some cases even enjoyable.

Ryan Murphy may not be a calm, metered director, but damn if he can’t write some of the best pulp dialogue. The script is chock full of snappy retorts, deliciously petty quips and crescendos with one knockdown Dynasty-level screaming match. The dialogue would be nothing if you didn’t have the right actors doling it out, and this is another area where Horror Story excels.

Led by the beautiful and talented Connie Britton (the slighted, tragic matriarch), the cast is a nice assemblage of talented familiar faces and some wonderful character actors. This variety of semi-self-aware high-pulp needs to be played serious, loud and seriously loud, and nobody in the cast seems to understand this better than co-stars Jessica Lange (an aging, bigoted southern Belle) and Dylan McDermmot (who is still probably flossing bits of the scenery out from between his teeth).

“But what about the horror? Will genre fans be happy?” You ask. “They should be,” I would answer. Beginning with a grisly pre-credits sequence that involves not only a creepy old house, an ominous little girl and pickled fetuses, but also glimpses of some kind of ghost/monster, the show continues to ladle on the shocks evenly over its runtime. Shocks that include—but are not limited to—a creepy gimp suit, a poltergeist pulled directly from Poltergeist, and a crispy Amityville-esque murderer. I think you’ll find something you’ll like.

Only time will tell if American Horror Story can stay the course, sustain its quality and become one of the few successful serial genre shows, but I, for one, am rooting for it. Check it out if you haven’t done so already.

The Value of Shock

Disclaimer: Yeah, there are like fifteen hundred other reviews of this book bouncing around the internet. I know. But I went to a store and bought this last week, so you’re gonna have to indulge me while I put down some thoughts.

There are very few nonfiction books written about horror films that aren’t either: a) breezy, fan-written overviews of the genre, which are generally full of hyperbole and geek-bias or b) so overly academic that they preclude enjoyment. In Shock Value, Jason Zinoman solves this problem by approaching his chosen material as both an intelligent fan (the guy wrote for the New York Times and Vanity Fair) and by focusing the majority of his attention on the interesting—and often untold—human stories behind the production of these films.

Zinoman’s area of interest is the dawn of “New Horror” in the 1970s. As you probably know, there’s not a whole lot left to say about Halloween, The Exorcist, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, or Rosemary’s Baby. These films have been poked and prodded, reconstructed and deconstructed under every possible critical and academic lens. Wisely, Zinoman chooses to take a closer look at the creators of these films over in-depth analysis of the films themselves. He examines both the cultural climate of the time in which these men were working and their relationships to each other (relationships which range from playful thematic discourse to professional symbiosis to downright adversarial). Through extensive and candid interviews with filmmakers like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper and a host of their collaborators Zinoman creates intriguing miniature portraits of the men themselves, but also to tell the larger story of the movement they forged. These are men we don’t hear from a lot (promo material for DVDs barely counts, and that’s not the kind of engagement they give Zinoman). Many of their stories are quite fascinating and will often offer deeper insights into their work.

Worthy of special mention is the large swath of time Zinoman takes discussing the life and work of the late Dan O’Bannon. It’s great that this lesser-respected, semi-kooky, but very important figure in genre cinema gets to tell his side of the story one last time in the pages of Shock Value. For me, this alone was worth the price of the book.

How much enjoyment you yourself will derive from Shock Value, probably depends on your level of open-mindedness and readiness to interact with a text that you may not agree with at all times. The hardest of the hardcore horror fans will probably find much of the ground covered to be familiar, and even if they don’t they will possibly take offense to Zinoman’s frank appraisal of horror post-the advent of New Horror. The author approaches the men he’s studying in a very smart way, and is very quick to point out how well-read his subjects were as young men. By the time he reaches his conclusion he makes two fairly controversial assertions. First he points out the unfortunate trend that many of these filmmakers were never able to top their early (and in most cases, first) works. This is unpleasant, but it’s also pretty objectively the truth. Zinoman then implies that the reason there has never been another boom in horror comparable with the 1970s, is because once the conventions of the genre were established, the genre fed on itself (and only on itself) until stagnation. Zinoman attributes this decline to the fact that while Craven and Carpenter took their ideas of what was frightening from the works of Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett, younger filmmakers were getting their same conceptions exclusively from Craven and Carpenter.

If that last sentence raised your ire—if you’re ready to hurl lame insults like “elitist” and “portentous” at Zinoman—then maybe you won’t enjoy Shock Value. But you also might be the person who needs to read it the most.