06 April 2012

Horror Blog Of The Month: SHOCKS TO THE SYSTEM

Easter gets a bit subversive this year :-)

This month's HBOTM is something special, something very interesting. It's "SHOCKS TO THE SYSTEM - Subversive Horror Films", a stunning and extremely informative blog dedicated to the shocking and taboo-breaking side of Horror.

The man behind SHOCKS TO THE SYSTEM is Jon T, a writer, filmmaker and teacher from London, a fascinating person who directed various short films funded by Channel 4 & EMMI, who taught screenwriting at the Bournemouth Film School, who writes features and reviews for STARBURST MAGAZINE and DARK RIVER PRESS (check out his awesome, AWESOME article on Exorcism Movies), and who is currently working on a book called "Shocks To The System".

Let's hear more from him now.

Hi Jon! Who are you and why do you blog?

I'm Jon Towlson, from London, England. I'm a teacher by day and blogger by night. About a year ago I started writing a book about horror films called "Shocks to The System" and I set up a companion blog for it. I was new to blogging at the time but in the last year I really began to get into it and enjoying reading other people's blogs and getting to know people. So, although I'm still writing the book it's gotten a bit neglected and the blog has taken over, along with things that have grown out of blogging like writing articles for other sites and magazines. But the main reason was to go hand-in-hand with a book.

Which movie made you a horror fan (and why)?

Maynard, it's hard to pin down one film. Can I have three?
I really got into horror films because as a kid I used to watch late night double bills on TV, and the one film that really made an impression on me was "The Crazies" (1973), even though I was only 10 years old and probably much too young to be watching that sort of thing. It was just so real to me - this was in the days before VCR and DVDs. The town I grew up in didn't even have a cinema for years so films were like a novelty. One of the factories in the town would run 16mm film shows for the teenagers and one of the films they showed was "Dawn of The Dead" (1978). So there were dozens of us 14 or 15 year olds in this big hall and "Dawn of the Dead" starts and in the scene where the zombie bites a chunk out of a the woman's arm, my friend turns to me and says "I think I'm going to be sick". And after that I was hooked on horror films, and started reading horror magazines, books and comics as well.

The film that affected me personally the most was "The Exorcist" (1973). I was five when it first came out but we used to tell stories about it in the playground and I was petrified by it even though it would be years until I actually got to see it on video. So seeing it was almost like trying to overcome my fears of it, but I still had recurring dreams about it until well into my thirties. Once when I was about 13 I snuck into a cinema to see it with my girlfriend and we sat there in the front row, the only two people in the cinema, waiting for it to start - and we couldn't go through with it, we were too scared to watch it! So we snuck into see Disney's The Black Hole instead!

Who is your favorite horror director (and why)?

He's kind of out of fashion at the moment but Romero is my favourite because of all the directors he is the one who has remained truest to himself throughout the years.

What are your alltime horror favorites?

1. The Exorcist
2. Dawn of The Dead
3. Repulsion/Rosemary's Baby/The Tenant
4. Last House on The Left (1972)
5. Suspiria
6. The Black Cat (1934)
7. Session 9
8. Freaks
9. Frankenstein (1931)
10. Shivers

What's the worst horror movie you've seen so far?

There are too many. Some bad films are depressing but others are hilarious.
"Night of the Demon" (1980) and "Don't Go Near The Park" (1981) are both.

Most of my friends don't like horror films. What about your friends?

Not many of them do, and my wife definitely doesn't!

Michael? Freddy? Leatherface? Other?

Leatherface, for sure, but only Gunnar Hansen in the role.

European Horror? US Horror? Asian Horror? Other?

I'd have to go with US horror, shamefully I don't know much about Asian horror.

You prefer watching horror at home or at the theater?

Definitely in the theatre because of the atmosphere. The most incredible experience was seeing "Day of the Dead" in a theatre in Rome in 1985. It was in Italian with no subtitles and the audience were all teenagers like me. They talked all the way through the film until the gore scenes where they were screaming and throwing things at the screen - it was like a riot. Me and my friends didn't have a clue what was going on in the film because we didn't speak Italian but we were totally bemused by the audience's behaviour.

What music do you like?

I like stuff like Steely Dan, Bojan Z., Larry Willis, Stereolab - jazzy stuff!

What do you read?

I read a lot of horror novels. I liked Joe Hill's first two novels. I like Stephen King, early Clive Barker and some of Ramsey Campbell. Apart from that my favourite non-horror author is Richard Russo (who wrote Nobody's Fool).

Tell me the first 3 things that come to your mind when you think about Austria
(not Australia)?

The Alps, classical music and you, Maynard.

Anything else you wanna tell us?

Just to repeat what the critic Elliot Stein said, that the best horror films are 'genuinely, edifyingly subversive'.

Thank you, Jon!



  1. Excellent interview - Jon seems very cool! I wish him luck with his book - and I'll be moseying over to check out his blog soon!

  2. I agree with Craig. Jon does seem very cool indeed. And the interview was nice and easy to read. Off to his blog now!

  3. I have to agree with Jon... the Exorcist left a major impression on me too. It was the first horror film to scare the be-jeezus out of me (I think I've blogged about it somewhere).

    Great Interview and blog, Maynard!

  4. five words: I'm gonna follow this guy!

  5. @Craig & George:
    Yeah, Jon is a really cool guy - and I'm totally lookin' forward to his book!

    Thanx a lot, Annie!

    @Kai & Jen:
    You're doin' the right thing :-)

  6. I'm following too!

    Haha, Don't Go Near the Park... thanks again, Maynard!

  7. LOL my pleasure :-) I guess everyone hates this piece of turd :D

  8. Great interview Maynard... Oh c'mon guys, Don't Go Near the Park isn't that bad ! Has anyone here seen Jess Franco's 1980 atrocity Devil Hunter ? Bad movies can often be sublime, but this one is about as charming as a used condom. I suspect Franco was under heavy sedation when he made this. It makes Snuff look like it was directed by David Fincher. One to avoid...

  9. Thank you, Wes!

    Haven't seen Devil Hunter yet, but I remember reading a few terrible reviews :)


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