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How Liverpool’s Frontline church ‘struggles’ with homosexuality

[Originally published on The Guardian‘s Comment is free in 2011]

If you’re a Pentecostal or charismatic Christian in Merseyside, you’ll know that Frontline Church, in the Wavertree area of Liverpool, is pretty much the hip place to be. But a thought-provoking Guardian video report by John Harris last month reveals there’s more to Frontline than just trendy worship and dynamic preaching. Its volunteers are reaching out to sex workers, drug addicts and people in poverty, sometimes with traditional methods, such as food banks, and sometimes in quite progressive ways you might not expect from a conservative church, such as distributing condoms to prostitutes.

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Dracula’s Daughter: A Queer Monster Classic Turns 75

[Originally published on diaboliquemagazine.com in 2011]

The clunky execution of Tod Browning’s 1931 film Dracula is the elephant in the room as far as classic horror is concerned. Bela Lugosi impresses in the title role, certainly, and the movie has a handful of truly memorable moments, but most of it falls very flat. Viewed 80 years later, it is not so much a great film as a curiosity, notable for its seminal place in cinema history.

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Review: The Haunting of Hill House

An Invitation to Terror: The Haunting of Hill House Reviewed
Liverpool Playhouse, 7 December 2015-16 January 2016

While you might leave behind one or two of the wordier scenes and the occasionally convoluted machinations of the plot, the warped, surreal benightedness of The Haunting Of Hill House – a new commission for the stage from Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse — will almost certainly follow you out of the theatre.

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The Charm of Evil

[Originally published on diaboliquemagazine.com in 2011]

And it was at that age that poetry arrived in search of me.

Pablo Neruda

I was seven when horror came in search of me. I’d seen it from afar: Garish comic-strip representations of Dracula on Valentine picture postcards, glimpses of men standing around in misty graveyards in late-night films I wasn’t allowed to watch. But when I was seven, my father gave me a book, the Ladybird Horror Classic abridgment of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I devoured its words and handsome illustrations eagerly, and from that moment forward, horror had me firmly in its clutch. Those pocket-sized hardbacks of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy were my initiation into the realms of the genre.

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The Horror of It All: The Dynamics of Class and Power in the Hammer Gothics

This was originally published by Albion magazine (online) in 2005, and represents one of my earliest published pieces of writing, as well as my first on Hammer Films, if I recall rightly.

The Hammer House of Horror, the makers of quintessentially British gothic horror films, was dominated by two dashing aristocrats: Baron Frankenstein and Count Dracula. Their terror was inflicted on lower-class rustic communities, but their heroic pursuers – as well as the particular pool of victims we care most about – were middle-class, treading a noble path midway between the ignorance and ignobility of the working classes and the unfettered craving for power of the upper class. These dynamics provided the general contours for Hammer time and again throughout the studio’s truly “classic” period, which I shall (to the infuriation of some aficionados, I am sure) place roughly from The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957 to Taste the Blood of Dracula in 1969.

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Dickensian Gothic: A Christmas Carol (2011)

The year was 1843, and English literature had witnessed the zenith of early Gothic horror in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). On the other side of the Atlantic, Edgar Allan Poe was reimagining the genre in such tales as The Fall of the House of Usher (1839) and The Tell-Tale Heart (1843). And in Britain, Charles Dickens was appropriating the Gothic tradition for his own stories; the conventions of the Gothic were to loom particularly large in late works such as Bleak House (1852) and Great Expectations (1860), but it was in a series of Christmas stories that he first explored the genre fully. The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846) and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (1848) are now forgotten by popular culture, but the first, A Christmas Carol (1843), continues to be read by millions and has been the subject of dozens of film adaptations.

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