#HalloweenFrights Day 4: Troy H. Gardner reveals the top 10 scariest horror movie moments EVER

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It’s day four of #HalloweenFrights, and I’m excited/terrified to welcome author Troy H. Gardner to the site. At this time of year, there are a LOAD of lists that attempt to uncover the best/scariest/most amazing scenes in horror movies EVER, but, trust me, Troy knows his stuff. When he says these scenes are awesome, I believe him. Take it away, Troy…

As a lifelong horror fan, co-author of gay horror Camp Carnage, and author of Moments From A Stolen Year, here are 10 of my favourite horror movie moments. And by ‘favourite’ I mean I’ll kick myself later when I think of 30 more that should have been included (like something from the ’90s). Be warned: some of these venture into deep spoiler territory. Since ranking these is impossible, I’m placing them in order of their release date.

The Wicker Man1. The Wicker Man (1973)
Moment: Sargent Howie’s fate
Talk about a culture clash. The entire film leads perfectly to the deeply unsettling burning of the wicker man and Edward Woodward’s defiant death wails drowned out by Christopher Lee’s pagan flock is a sight to behold.

2. Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
Moment: Cooked Beef
This glam rock reimaging of the Phantom of the Opera centers on a musical retelling of Faust, and when we finally see the production at the Paradise, it lives up to the hype. In “Somebody Super Like You/Life At Last” we have a staged production rocking Caligari fierceness in set design and makeup, and then Beef’s electrifying end. It’s high energy camp horror entertainment at its best.

3. When A Stranger Calls (1979)
Moment: The first twenty minutes
The opening was scripted and shot as a complete short film, but after Halloween’s success, producers created the rest of the film and tacked it on, which explains why the opening feels like a complete story in itself. Of course it’s based on the well-known urban legend “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs”, but it’s all in the execution. Big-eyed, sweet-voiced Carol Kane plays a babysitter who’s terrorized by disturbing phone calls. Years later, Scream did a more than memorable recreation with Drew Barrymore, but you can’t beat the original.

sleepaway4. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Moment: The whole freakin’ ending
The film is this strange, giallo-esque slasher mystery with actual teens playing teens (what a crazy idea), and as much campy fun is had, it’s that coocoo bananas ending that solidified the film’s legacy and created a franchise ripe for further entries. The whodunnit aspect works well enough to whittle down suspects until we’re left believing the killer has to be short fuse Ricky or his painfully shy cousin Angela. Once Ricky’s beaten by a chimpanzee-like raging camp owner, it’s all too obvious that Angela’s the killer. Then comes that infamous reveal when the counselors find Angela on a moonlit beach cradling nice boy Paul’s head.

5. Phantasm 2 (1988)
Moment: Father Meyers’ death
Oh man, there’s so much to love across the entire Phantasm series, but I’m especially partial to the priest’s death in the first sequel. Kenneth Tigar is a phenomenal actor who instills real pathos in the drunk priest struggling with demonic aliens digging up and reanimating corpses (typical, right?) and his exchange with the always intimidatingly magnetic Angus Scrimm’s Tall Man is perfect. And the Tall Man lefts him go, only to get drilled in the head by a flying sphere.

6. Child’s Play (1988)
Moment: Chucky reveals himself to Karen (and the audience)
Obviously Chucky’s a killer doll and by now we’ve seen him running around for six sequels and counting but the original movie played it close to the vest. It even toys with the idea that Chucky is just in Andy’s imagination, harking back to earlier iterations of Don Mancini’s screenplay. We’re pretty deep in the movie and invested in the characters, and then comes the big reveal scene and it’s entirely worth the build-up. Catherine Hicks plays it flawlessly and Kevin Yagher’s behind-the-scenes animatronics were so great she married him.

Freddy Vs Jason7. Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)
Moment: Freddy Vs. Jason
The movie may have its flaws (what film doesn’t?) but the entire film is based on the simple concept of two slasher icons going at it, which fans had clamored to see for over a decade, and it delivers. The fight is fun, intense, and allows both boogeymen to come out victorious depending on how you look at it.

8. Hatchet (2006)
Moment: The Parmettos’ murders
When I saw this in theaters after zero hype, I knew they’d created a new slasher icon the moment Victor Crowley appears. He’s brutal, he’s terrifying, and his debut scene is bloody fun. He hatchets Richard Riehle to death and then proceeds to tear a middle-aged, track-suit wearing woman’s head in two during a gorgeous circular tracking shot.

9. Dude Bro Party Massacre III (2015)
Moment: The recap of Dude Bro parts 1 and 2
This gory satire is the ‘lost’ third entry in a supposed 1980s slasher series, so to get the audience up to date, there’s a fantastic recap sequence in which the final boy from the first movies tells his therapist about all he’s survived. It’s fast, bloody, funny, expository, and includes a Larry King cameo as Coach Handsy.

10. Boarding School (2018)
Moment: Jacob descends the stairs
Man, I love this movie. Can’t recommend it enough. And since it’s not decades old, I’ll be vague with this one. After a fiery climax, our protagonist makes a powerful decision and then walks down the stairs in a beautifully shot sequence framed with a stained-glass window and a surprisingly playful score. Like with the Wicker Man, it’s a moment the entire film leads up to and is both brutal and unavoidable.

Thanks Troy! If you haven’t been scared away already, be sure to follow Troy on Twitter. And come back tomorrow for more spooky happenings, this time from an author who knows how to cast a sinister spell…

#HalloweenFrights Day 3: Phoebe Locke delves into the lingering power of fear – and the boogeyman

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It’s day three of #HalloweenFrights, and I’m very excited to have Phoebe Locke joining me for a seriously spooky post about the power of fear – and that undying figure of myth, the boogeyman.

Phoebe is the author of The Tall Man (Wildfire, 2018), which drew on the singularly creepy internet meme of the Slender Man. Here, she reveals why he inspired her to write her novel and why, despite penning one of the year’s most unnerving books, she still gets scared

I have a confession to make. I am 32 years old and last night I went to sleep with the lights on.

In my defence, I didn’t start the night that way. I went to sleep in the dark like most other well-adjusted adults do every night. But when I woke in the early hours of the morning, I couldn’t stop the images that began to creep into my head; couldn’t stop imagining that every sound outside my door was a footstep or the door handle slowly turning. So I turned the light on and eventually fell asleep again.

The reason? Yesterday I watched episode 4 of Netflix’s The Haunting Of Hill House and, frankly, scared myself shitless.

The Haunting Of Hill House (Netflix)

I’ll avoid spoilers for anyone who hasn’t watched the series yet (do, though, because it’s brilliant) but episode 4 features a particularly frightening scene where Luke, one of the youngest of the Crain siblings, hides from one of the many ghouls haunting his family’s home: an impossibly tall and thin floating man.

Given I wrote a novel, The Tall Man, inspired by a similar figure, this should really be right up my street. And it is – I can’t wait to watch the rest of the series – but still, it scared the hell out of me.

When I was about eight or nine, the thing which kept me up at night was my fear of vampires. I’m not really sure where this came from or why it scared me quite so much (despite the evidence to the contrary so far, I don’t actually scare that easily – it would only be a year or two before that same child would be bingeing on Stephen King novels). But I remember very clearly wrapping myself up tight in my duvet, making sure it reached my ears and therefore protected my neck from any of the undead who might happen to be wandering through a Cambridgeshire village that night.

I also remember going to the library each week and taking out every novel about vampires I could find. It’s possible that I was looking for tips on how to fight one should the occasion arise, but actually I think it was simpler than that. Vampires scared me and somehow that was interesting. I wanted to keep poking at that feeling.

I think that we often have that duality as children – being frightened and yet fascinated by something. When I read about Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, the two 12-year-old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin, who stabbed their friend 19 times in a bid to please Slender Man, it was this which really drew me to the case and inspired me to write The Tall Man.


Watching the recorded police interviews and reading various accounts, you see it over and over again: the girls were scared that Slender Man would kill them or their families, but they also wanted to go and live with him in the woods, to be his ‘proxies’, and be rewarded for their services. The original internet forum posts which had created this urban legend – a boogeyman in his most modern form – truly frightened them, but they kept going back for more.

Both Geyser and Weier are vulnerable individuals and the case is an extreme and tragic one. But I think their reaction to the story of Slender Man is a bigger version of something we often experience – both as children, when we’re told about the boogeyman in all his guises, and as adults, picking up a horror novel or choosing a scary film to watch. We want to turn away, turn it off, hide behind a cushion. And yet we desperately want to look, too.

I think that’s what draws me to writing about the things that scare me. It’s an addictive feeling, fear; an interesting one. It takes me, time after time, back to the darkest corners of my imagination, makes me want to pull the things that hide there into the light. To look at them more fully, to keep poking at that feeling. The same way I used to check out more and more of those vampire books as a kid. The same way I’ll watch the rest of The Haunting Of Hill House both dreading and hoping for another glimpse of the floating man.

Tonight I’ll at least try to start the night with the lights off.

Okay, I officially won’t be sleeping tonight. Thanks Phoebe. For more sleepless nights, you can follow Phoebe on Twitter here. Tomorrow, I’ll be joined by a very good friend (and occasional co-author), who’s briefly whisking us away from books for a movie-related post. Scream you then.

#HalloweenFrights Day 2: Part Two – Fran Dorricott asks, Where are all the queer witches?

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Let the magic continue! After Elizabeth and Katharine Corr’s rules for writing a witch story, today’s #HalloweenFrights continues with more wicca wonder from Fran Dorricott. Fran is the author of upcoming queer witch novel After The Eclipse (March 2019, Titan), which I can’t wait to read. Here, she discusses the idea of ‘otherness’ and asks, Where are all the queer witches?

Witches have always been my favourite ‘spooky’ creature. While my friends would dress up on Halloween with their false fangs and fake blood, I’d always be the one in the back smeared in green paint, a black cape and robes and a broomstick in my hand.

It’s no surprise that I’ve been consuming every witchy story I can get my hands on for as long as I can remember. My heart still jumps when I see a new book or TV show about them. What do I like about witches? Well, I’ve been puzzling about this for years, but I think it has something to do with the intersection of power and otherness.

Witches in popular culture do not generally suffer from the same level of persecution as the real women who are hurt and killed for their otherness, but their otherness still defines their lives. My favourite witches often worry about being exposed to others, their powers being abused or their lives changed by their magic.

And yet they are some of the most powerful role models in popular culture. Witches own their magic, use it boldly (whether that is for good or evil), and that has always made me feel strong. They are powerful because of their otherness, as well as despite it.

So where are all the queer and POC witches? Of course they exist, but while I was compiling a list of the witches I remembered from my childhood, the names on it were generally limited to white, straight, cis witches. Despite their otherness because of their magic, somehow the list looks remarkably like every other popular culture list.


So I dug deeper. Of course we have a few exceptions to the rule. There’s Willow Rosenberg, whose same-sex relationship in Buffy heralds her as a queer icon for ever. And there’s Marie Laveau (I’m feeling special love for Angela Bassett’s portrayal in American Horror Story: Coven), the Voodoo Queen inspired by a real-life New Orleans figure. But otherwise my list of favourite witches is remarkably white and straight.

But things, I hope, are starting to change. I’m seeing a surge of queer witchy projects cropping up in young adult fiction. Anthologies like Toil And Trouble, and books like Labyrinth Lost, giving voice to LGBT and POC witches. The Charmed reboot has a lesbian main character (the middle sister, Mel), and I am so psyched to start seeing myself and my friends in more of the popular culture.

Just for fun, here is a rundown of my top ten witches in popular culture. These are the women who made me feel powerful – because of my differences as well as despite them – and I can’t wait to see more diverse witches in the future.

hida10. Hilda Spellman (Sabrina The Teenage Witch)
Hilda always reminded me of myself. Scrappy, a bit dippy, and very loving at heart. Of course Sabrina and Zelda are awesome too, but Hilda is just so much fun!

9. The Grand High Witch (Roald Dahl’s The Witches)
She was the cause of the very first nightmares I remember after watching a film. Anjelica Huston without her mask on was absolutely terrifying! I later had a dream where the Hocus Pocus Sanderson sisters came to save me.

8. Winifred Sanderson (Hocus Pocus)
Another glorious morning. Makes me sick! Same, Winnie. Saaaaame. Winnie’s brand of humour appeals to me in an ‘I work in customer service, too’ sort of way, and I love her even more as an adult.

7. Sally Owens (Practical Magic)
Book Sally and film Sally are a little different, but her gentle witchcraft always made me feel very safe and calm. Plus Sandra Bullock in braids is just adorable, honestly.

6. Piper Halliwell (Charmed)
My favourite of the Halliwell sisters, Piper’s freezing time powers always made me think I’d never be late to class if I could do it. Piper is the woman I always wanted to be: warm, patient, and kickass to boot!

Marie5. Marie Laveau (AHS: Coven)
Talking about badass women, Angela Bassett’s Marie Laveau is top of the list. Somehow her scenes in the show were always the most arresting.

4. Mel Vera (Charmed 2018)
I haven’t seen much in the way of the Charmed reboot but I’ve very excited for the potential here! Charmed was my all-time favourite TV show growing up, so more powerful young ladies being badass is what I’m all about.

3. Willow Rosenberg (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
Look, who didn’t have a crush on Willow ok? A generation of queer girls everywhere owe a LOT to Alyson Hannigan. Just saying.

2. Manon Blackbeak (Sarah J Maas’ Throne Of Glass series)
Manon is one of my greatest adult-life loves. The perfect amount of cut-throat combined with a love for gross animals and I’m 100% down. Plus, who doesn’t love a cracking redemption arc?

1. Elphaba aka The Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked/The Wizard of Oz)
As a kid The Wizard Of Oz was my favourite movie. And when I found out that there was a musical about the witch telling us HER story I about died (I love Gregory Maguire’s book, too). In my opinion all good story-telling is about point of view, so I love hearing about characters whose story was originally very 2D. And I’m not going to lie and say I don’t support the Galinda/Elphaba ship, because I do. And Gregory Maguire does too.

This is a direct plea to the universe: more queer and POC witches please! With the world in the state it’s currently in, we need all the diverse badassery we can get.

Thanks Fran, I couldn’t agree more. I don’t know about you, but after all this witch talk, I’m feeling pretty green. Things are switching up tomorrow as we delve in to one of the most pervading myths in horror with one of my favourite new authors. See you on the other side!

#HalloweenFrights Day 2: Part One – Elizabeth & Katharine Corr’s rules for writing a wicked witch story

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Congratulations! You survived the first day of #HalloweenFrights! To celebrate, here’s a spook-tacular treat – today I have not one but TWO guest posts about witches.

First up, I’m handing over to author sisters Elizabeth and Katharine Corr, who recently cast a wicked spell with their Witches Kiss trilogy (which I loved). Because they’ve written three whole books about spellcasters, I asked them to reveal their six secrets for how to write an awesome witch story. Over to you, ladies…

When writing The Witch’s Kiss trilogy, we spent a lot of time researching all things witchy. Luckily, witches – like vampires – seem to have an enduring appeal, both in literature and on screen, so there was plenty of good source material. Here’s what we learnt…

1. Do your homework. In more recent history, witchcraft has been associated with the occult, satanic worship, cursing your neighbour’s cows and other generally bad stuff. In a modern context – and, funnily enough, if you go further back in history – it’s been associated more with healing and harnessing the power of nature. In our trilogy we’ve mixed elements of both, trying to pay homage to both versions of witchcraft.

hermione2. Make your witch believable – as a person first, as a witch second. A good witch story needs a believable protagonist. Think Hermione, Mildred, Granny WeatherWax. Each of these witches has vulnerabilities and strengths that we can relate to. Modern witches, even the wicked ones, tend to be more well-rounded than in fairytales (the Angelina Jolie version of Maleficent, for example). Have your witch be malicious and evil by all means, but also show us why.

3. Dress them right. Actually, dress them any way you want to as long as it fits with your setting. Personally, we love a pointy black hat. But witches, like everyone else, come in all different shapes and sizes. Some witches have wands, brooms and all the traditional witchy paraphernalia. Some have the latest technology and do power dressing. Our hero, Merry, lives in modern day Surrey and looks like a regular teenager. Her gran – the head of the coven – has a smart bob and pearl earrings; not a wart in sight. There are no rules regarding witch fashion.

3. Think outside the box: witches don’t have to be women or belong to a coven. There are modern male witches that would be very unhappy to be called warlocks (if you don’t believe us, Google it). We have a powerful male witch in our trilogy, who, unlike the wizards in our books, inherited his powers straight from his mum. Again, some witches enjoy being part of a group, whilst others are solo artists. Your witch doesn’t have to be part of a coven. Merry definitely didn’t want to be part of hers.

5. Know your powers. Magical powers vary. Some witches use cauldrons, wands and spell books. Granny Weatherwax prefers ‘headology’ (basically outsmarting your opponent by getting inside their headspace). Some witches make human/animal sacrifices, whilst others use the power of the land and, where possible, fresh herbs. If your witch casts spells, try to make them sound convincing. We spent a lot of time researching stuff in Latin and other languages.

6. Have a good antagonist. Harry Potter wouldn’t have been quite the same without Lord Voldemort, and a witch is always at her best when she’s in mortal danger. Either through clever spells or pure courage, facing down the Big Bad is when she comes into her own.

Big thanks to Elizabeth and Katharine for this. You can follow them on Twitter by clicking their names (ooo, magic), and make sure you check out their books if you’re a fan of all things witch-y. Want more spellbinding stuff? Check out part two of the #HalloweenFright witch special later today.

#HalloweenFrights Day 1: Paul Tremblay talks pet spiders, claymation chicken heads and horror’s most underrated novel

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Welcome to day one of #HalloweenFrights! ’Tis the season to get spooky, and this year I decided to go all-out with a week of special guest posts from some of my favourite horror authors. Over the next eight days, you’ll be confronted with ghosts, monsters and witches – and that’s just the authors. Kidding… or am I?

To kick things off, I’m very excited (and only a little bit scared) to welcome Paul Tremblay to the site. Paul is the author of spook-tastic books Disappearance At Devil’s RockA Head Full Of Ghosts and The Cabin At The End Of The World, which means he knows a thing or two about scaring people. I asked him to give us a glimpse inside his creepy/creaky mind by answering 13 carefully selected and not-at-all-random Halloween questions. Here goes…

What do you do on Halloween?
Up until last year I go trick or treating with my daughter. She’s too old now. So now I’ll stay home and cry, and eat candy.

Have you ever scared yourself while writing?
Mostly no. I’m too close to the work and I see all the gears turning (or at least, I see how I hope they’ll turn).

I do a good enough job scaring myself when I’m home alone at night, or in a hotel room. Like now.

Scariest thing you’ve ever read?
Adam Neville’s House Of Small Shadows is a recent novel that really creeped the hell out of me. It’s just so wrong in all the right ways.

Most terrifying word(s) in the English language?
President Trump.

freddyFreddy or Jason?
Freddy, I guess. I don’t like slasher films, generally. But the first Nightmare On Elm Street is terrifying and the third one is a lot of fun.

What’s the biggest misconception about horror writers?
They live in black houses. They keep pet spiders. They write one star amazon reviews for authors they are jealous of. They like Dokken. They like pickles. They’re somehow messed up or some variant of the ‘what’s wrong with you?’ question non-horror readers (or non-readers in general) will ask. I find horror writers tend to be if not more well adjusted than your average bear, then at least more resigned to the madness of existence.

Earliest memory of being scared?
My first memory. A huge bumblebee crawling around inside the arm of my sweater before stinging me.

Weirdest nightmare you’ve ever had?
I once dreamt there was a fissure in the blacktop at the end of my driveway. Deep inside the crevasse was a substance that looked like a breathing omelette. At each end of the fissure were claymation chicken heads that were writhing and snarling. I cut the heads off with a shovel and buried them.

Have at it Freud. Or Jung.


Somebody painted I KNOW on my front door. Was it you?
I painted I DON’T KNOW and someone erased the DON’T.

Most underrated horror movie/book?
I’ll interpret underrated as overlooked. Dave Zeltserman’s The Caretaker Of Loren Field should be read by everyone.

A guy calls to ask what’s your favourite scary movie. What do you do?
I say, The Thing. And then tell him his own call is coming from inside his house.

You have a crystal ball: what does your horror future look like?
Next summer will see my short story collection Growing Things And Other Stories. Four of the 19 stories have connections to my previous novels. In the summer of 2020, we will be taken over by aliens, and my next novel will be published as well.

Thanks Paul, I hope you get home safely from that hotel. (If you see Jack Nicholson lurking around, take my advice and RUN.) Tomorrow’s edition of #HalloweenFrights is all about witches, so make sure you come back then with your conical hat and wart cream. See you soon!

A Fantastic Woman (2017)



After a romantic night out, a woman’s boyfriend collapses in their apartment. Worried, she rushes him to hospital. Within an hour, she’s told he has died. Unable to process the information, she runs, and is dragged back to the hospital by security. They’re not only suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the man’s death, but also who the woman was to him, and what she might be hiding, because the woman doesn’t look exactly like other women, and when they look at her ID card, it has a man’s name on it.

It’s with a slow and steady hand that Chilean director Sebastián Lelio guides us into the world of Marina Vidal. A transgender woman, Marina lives in a time when LGBTQ+ rights have never been more talked about but, as we quickly discover, that doesn’t mean the fight’s over. In her first lead role, transgender actress Daniela Vega affords Marina a quiet dignity that belies her daily struggle as she’s ritually humiliated by bigots and businesswomen alike.

The tragedy of her tale is expertly handled by both Vega and Lelio, who never overplay their hand, and frequently look for the hope hidden in the horror. Flashes of surrealism leaven the mood, including a glittering dancefloor segment and a telling moment in which Marina struggles to walk down the street as she battles a gale that keeps pushing her back. These surreal flourishes aside, A Fantastic Woman forgoes a traditional narrative (its McGuffin leads nowhere; there’s no grand victory for Marina) which might flummox some viewers, but as a portrait of a woman fighting bigotry and prejudice with quiet self-belief, it’s gripping stuff.

Guest blog post: Welcome to the world of Sour Fruit by Eli Allison

Today I am very excited to host a guest post by Eli Allison, the debut author of new dystopian thriller Sour Fruit, which is out now.

The concept behind Sour Fruit is very cool – it’s set in a future hell hole known as Kingston. This ramshackle world is full of shady characters who’ll cut your throat as soon as look at you.

So over to Eli, who’s going to introduce us to this wacky, dangerous world…

Picture of The Body Quater 1

Want to say a big thank you to Josh for hosting my twisted novel Sour Fruit, on this second spot of The After Party Book Blog Tour.

So I thought we could do a fabulous sneak-peek into the world of Kingston; the setting for my dark dystopian novel. Kingston is a rotting scrap yard of misery, a river city in a country plagued by yearly devastating floods. VOIDs (people deemed unworthy of British Citizenship) are forced to survive in this place, and they try to have forged a life out of a city that year by year is rotting away under their feet.

We are going to look closely at one area in particular and the best way to know a place is to know its stories. There is a character in Sour Fruit who collects and tells people the stories of Kingston. Here is one of their tales about The Body Quarter…

There was two Janes, one tall, one small, one dusted with freckles, the other pale as bridal silk, one who danced amongst rubble and bullet holes, the other that couldn’t breathe.

These two Janes never meet, although they were forever changed by the other. VOID Jane and Citizen Jane, two tiny bubbles racing to the surface.

Citizen Jane, small and pale liked to slide the days away picking daisies to make crowns for her doll. She grew up in a nest of love, two hummingbird parents who hovered around their only child. But all her days were almost gone, she’d never fly the nest, never fly at all. She was dying and all that was left was nearly gone.

But there was a place, a hurried whisper of a last chance. ‘Kingston,’ they were told, but it came at a price.

‘Any price,’ they said. ‘Any.’

Who wouldn’t burn the world to save their child? The parents were lucky it wasn’t the whole world that needed burning… Just one girl.

Silly VOID Jane had asked for help from the wrong aid worker; he wore his bright orange vest like he wore his smile; tight. The worker had taken her blood like he had taken everyone’s blood he helped. He filed VOID Jane’s picture, name and test results into his private files and with the stab of the enter button everyone’s fates were sealed.

Citizen Jane took her first good breath in years, her new lungs stretched wide. Her eyes opened to see a shiny white room her parents watching. Her mother embracing her doll, her father embracing his tears. They thanked the doctor, the nurse, the porter, everyone but the one person they should have.

They found VOID Jane’s body burnt in The Black Quay, but those that found her knew the hollowed out child had spent her last days in The Body Quarter, carved up for parts.

VOID Jane, tall and freckled would slide the days away, twirling, and leaping to music played through the tinny speakers of an old phone. She would wait hours at the Charge shop, to fill its little battery. Racing to find an old room, secret and long dead and she would place the phone tilted against rumble and hit play. She would dance in muted light, etching graceful lines into the dusty floor with pointed toes, her fingers outstretched reaching for the sky.

The End

Hope you liked the glimpse into the underbelly of Kingston. If you’d like to know more about Kingston then my book Sour Fruit is out now.

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About the Author
EliAllison-iconEli Allison tells people at parties that she’s a writer, but she mostly spends the day in her knickers swearing at the laptop. She ping-ponged between one depressing job until finally she said, ‘This year I’m writing that book.’ Years later the book is done…There is a sneaking suspicion she would have kept quiet had she known quite how long it would have taken her. She lives in Yorkshire, works in her head and does not enjoy long walks on the beach or anywhere, in fact she gets upset at having to walk to the fridge for cheese.

Find Eli on Twitter @EliAllison3

And visit her website at

My Friend Dahmer (2017)



“I like to pick up roadkill but I’m trying to quit,” says teenager Jeff (Ross Lynch) early on in My Friend Dahmer. It’s a knowingly dark line in a film that frequently flirts with the extreme darkness of its subject matter without ever indulging in shock and gore. Because, yes, this is Jeffrey Dahmer we’re talking about, the infamous serial killer who murdered 17 men between 1978 and 1991 before he was jailed in the Columbia Correctional Institute, and then beaten to death by his cellmate.

This isn’t Making A Murderer: Teen Edition, though. ‘Becoming Dahmer’ would have been a more apt title, as none of the Wisconsin native’s unsettling crimes are portrayed here. Instead, director Marc Meyers adapts John ‘Derf’ Backderf’s same-named graphic novel. As one of Dahmer’s high-school friends, Backderf was there for Dahmer’s formative years, and they’re played out here in slow-burn detail as Dahmer struggles with his fractured home life, with school, and with his own burgeoning homosexuality.

The disturbing moments are often beautifully underplayed, from Dahmer leading a happy dog into the woods, to the teen’s casual questioning of a black classmate’s skin colour. Meyers forgoes slasher movie cliche to perfectly capture an understated ’70s mood, and his star – former Disney kid Lynch – is equally mesmerising; his often expressionless, dead-eyed but hugely physical performance is a revelation.

Why did Dahmer become obsessed with dead things? Would it have turned out differently if his parents (played with grotesque glee by Anne Heche and Dallas Roberts) hadn’t abandoned him? Meyers refrains from offering easy answers, perhaps because there aren’t any, instead watching Dahmer as he careens towards the inevitable. The result is quiet and lingering, blowing apart the Hollywood notion of what constitutes a psychopath to reveal the troubling, unsettling reality.

This review originally published in Crack magazine.

The Win Bin: The Seven Deadly Emotions Of Writing

Hello! I’m Joshua Winning and I write things. As I start work on a new book, I’m going to chart my journey from concept to completion. Wanna come? This week: feelings.


Books are all about emotion. How does a story make you feel? Do the characters inspire empathy or apathy? A book is made to make you feel something, and while emotion is delicate and intangible, the best writers make capturing it look easy.

My editor on Vicious Rumer crystallised that for me when he suggested removing the book’s epilogue. “I’m not sure it leaves you with the right feeling,” he said of a coda that didn’t really do anything, and he couldn’t have been more right. Cutting the epilogue meant the book ended with a very specific feeling.

In my last post, I talked about planning a new book. I decided to research, write character bios, make mood boards and all that fun stuff. I ended up doing it for two projects – one a locked-in psychological thriller, the other a gay YA horror.

All that was great fun and really helped me zero in on exactly what I wanted to achieve with each book, but the big thing I realised is this: the book I’ve decided to sit down and write is the one that captured the feeling I want to explore at the moment.

That got me thinking about all the crazy stuff you feel as a writer throughout the whole process. Writing, editing, publishing, promoting… Sometimes those feelings are overwhelming. Here are a few that crop up time and again for me…


The Seven Deadly Emotions Of Writing

“Oh god this is going to be awful. I can’t write. I shouldn’t be allowed to even try. Where’s the coffee/biscuits/pacifier?”

“There’s no point doing this because it’s way too much effort when I could be sitting watching repeats of RuPaul.”

“Woohoo, this is so new and everything’s shiny and I can basically do whatever I like because it’s my world. This is sooooo fuuuuun!”

“Why isn’t this written already? What do you mean I have to figure out what everybody says and what happens next? Can’t this just be done?”

“Wow, that sentence was actually good!”

“Well it’s done now. It is what it is. It’s done and I can’t do anything about it.”

“Why am I eating dinner when I should be starting the next book?!”


Until next time!

Are you working on a new project? Are you experiencing your own seven deadly emotions? Let me know below!

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120 BPM (2017)



In 1992, Robin Campillo joined a militant group of activists called Act Up Paris. Dedicated to battling government apathy towards the AIDS epidemic, Act Up Paris did everything it could to grab headlines and make its cause visible, no matter what the cost, in an era when the supposedly ‘gay disease’ wasn’t taken seriously.

The group’s spitfire spirit crackles through Campillo’s third feature film, 120 BPM, which is partially inspired by the French director’s time with Act Up, and sheds new light on gay militance in a time when LGBTQ+ people are enjoying more freedom than ever. The film’s plot follows a number of the group’s members, cleaving particularly closely to HIV-positive extrovert Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), and his growing closeness to new member Nathan (Arnaud Valois). Among the many other activists, all of whom get their moment, there’s a mother and her 16-year-old son Marco (Theophile Ray), who’s a haemophiliac and contracted the AIDS virus from an infected blood transfusion.

At two and a half hours long, Campillo’s film could have used a little judicious editing, but the freewheeling style and realistic delves into the group’s rowdy lecture-hall meetings are hugely seductive. As its title suggests, 120 BPM pulses with passion and anger on numerous levels. At times, it feels like an exorcism for Campillo, who lived this, and has lived with it for over 30 years. There’s hope, though, too. The sparse musical segments are euphoric, while the sense of community is warm and invigorating. For those who have watched How To Survive A Plague, 120 BPM offers a nourishing and rousing insight into gay activism outside of the US, and won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

This review originally published in Crack magazine.