Jason Zinoman’s 2011 book “Shock Value” was a fascinating look at the creation of several transgressive and classic horror films of the 1970s that not only redefined the genre, but Hollywood as a whole (“Night of the Living Dead,” “Last House on the Left,” “The Exorcist,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Halloween,” “Alien” to name a few). One of the best parts of Zinoman’s book was in exploring the roots of these films and filmmakers, specifically film students at the University of Southern California (USC) during the early 1970s. Many of these student films were horror-themed and many of these films either influenced these great films or whose filmmakers went on to play an integral part in Hollywood later.
USC Cinema Archivist Dino Everett has assembled many of these classic (but not seen for years) short films for his new feature-length anthology called “Shock Value.” Among the films featured are: two versions of Dan O’Bannon’s “Blood Bath” short and “Good Morning Dad,” John Carpenter’s “Captain Voyeur,” Charles Adair’s “The Demon,” and Terrence Winkless’s “Judson’s Release.” While I’m excited to see all of these, I am most eager to see “Judson’s Release,” which was written by Alec Lorimore. I saw “Judson’s” many years ago on HBO and it scared me to death. The plot later formed the basis for the popular film “When a Stranger Calls” and while “Stranger” had its effective moments, “Judson’s” was much more terrifying.
The film just premiered at USC last week and should be hitting theaters and film festivals in the coming months. Dave says check it out!
For more information about “Shock Value,” there’s a great overview at the link below:
Sex addiction is sort of taken seriously these days, but too often, it’s either thought of as a failure of morality or mindlessly celebrated as “transgressive.” I don’t believe Hubert Selby Jr. was ever a sex addict, but sex addiction follows similar patterns of other addictive behaviors, whether it’s drug abuse, shopping to the point of bankruptcy, hoarding, overeating, etc. Addiction is a compulsion to do the same behavior over and over again to satisfy some undefined need that’s never fulfilled. It can be a very scary and dark place. Selby understood this and had the foresight to write one of the first pieces of fiction that took this compulsion very seriously.
Written in 1976, “The Demon” is about a man named Harry who is a rising star on the corporate ladder, except his addiction to anonymous hook-ups consistently threatens to derail his career, his marriage, his sanity, his freedom, and his life. The book chronicles roughly 15 years Harry’s life from his early 20s until his late 30s and shows his struggles. It’s an explicit book, but not in the way you would expect (especially from Selby). Instead of describing Harry’s sexual hook-ups explicitly, it instead graphically describes the inner demons raging within him before a hook-up … the twitching, the sweating, the rationalizing, and finally the surrender to his compulsions. He tries substituting other things for his addiction (i.e. he becomes obsessed with collecting plants), but always succumbs to the monkey on his back. The book takes some very dark turns. I can’t say there’s a happy ending.
If my synopsis makes “The Demon” sound like some hysterical, religious-inflected “Reefer Madness”-style look at sex addiction, it’s only because of my limitations as a writer. “The Demon” is a great, but very dark hell-ride into the inner hell of compulsive behavior. The fact that this was written during the height of the sexual revolution (the original book was published by Playboy Press) is especially ballsy on Selby’s part and being a recovering addict himself, had an insight into a compulsive behavior many didn’t (and still don’t) take seriously. A truly terrific, scary, and underrated book that many people don’t know about (“Last Exit to Brooklyn” and “Requiem for a Dream” being Selby’s most famous works).