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The Full Lid
14th February 2020

Welcome to The Full Lid! It's 5 p.m. (ish), it's Friday, and you deserve something in your inbox that doesn't use the words 'primary action item' non-ironically.

Here's what you're going to get: a concentrated download of pop culture enthusiasm, how my week's been and this month, spotlights on female identifying creators for Women in Horror Month. I've got Youtubers for you this week, and next week, authors.

Let's read on, shall we?

Contents

The Wild Wild Sea
Parasite
Signal Boost
Department of Received Esoteric Print Goods
The Disney+ Experiment Update
Hack the Panic!
Playing Out, Signing Off

The Wild Wild Sea

My favorite definition of horror is allegedly William Friedkin's: true horror is seeing something approach. I love it because it's accurate but not universal, and two recent movie releases embody two very different ways this theme is subverted.

In Underwater, horror doesn't so much approach as pull the top off the undersea drilling platform the characters are living in. Nora, played with typical focus and dedication by Kristen Stewart, is an engineer who survives the initial disaster and joins up with Rodrigo (an excellent and underused Mamoudou Athie) as well as Emily (Jessica Henwick!), Smith (John Gallagher Junior!), their Captain (Vincent Cassel!) and Paul (TJ Miller). The six soon realize that everyone else has either already escaped, or is already dead. They then realize the rig isn't done exploding and their only chance at survival is to walk a mile across the seabed to an outlier station where they can resupply and call for help.

None of them figure out that six is a really high number for this kind of movie. But the script does.

Look, I'm a sucker for this sort of thing and there's a lot to enjoy in Underwater, not the least of which is Stewart's work. She's a surprisingly perfect granddaughter of Ripley, balancing hands on practicality with moments of subtle vulnerability that mean you buy her as a deep-sea oil worker in the same way you frequently hear TJ Miller talking. She's clearly grieving, and you find out why. She's also clearly terrified and lets that out through subtleties of physical performance that raise the film. The cast uniformly impress in fact, with Cassel's haunted Captain a surprisingly great foil. Miller has a couple of good lines, Gallagher Jr. and Henwick are a good dutiful, serious couple. There are moments of believable levity and verbal shorthand from this group of likable assholes, even as something very unpleasant begins to pick them off. You like them. Most of them. You care when they die.

But it's when Underwater starts doing the Fredkin boogie that things get interesting though oddly, not quite interesting enough. Cassel's character isn't telling anyone the whole truth and never actually does. There's this thing horror does that I love, which is embodied in this moment from The Mist:
Something impossibly vast and completely alien. Something whose very existence changes your life forever even though you are cosmically and physically beneath it's notice. It's chilling and beautiful, it throws stress fractures across the glass of the world and Underwater tries to do this not just with it's final reveal but with the sort of horror it is.

Because while it starts as a creature feature, the third act features a hard right turn towards this asshole right here:
*sighs* Hi Howard. You massive racist.

This is Howard Philips Lovecraft, grandfather of contemporary cosmic horror, man who hated punctuation almost as much as I sometimes seem to do, and did I mention, massive racist.

You can (if you must) dig into the discussion about it. I'll drop some links here. The short version is a small group of people doing the 'IS IT THOUGH?' meme from Thor: Ragnarok and everyone else nodding and trying to change the subject.

HPL, for all his uncountable faults, could string a yarn. The Deep Ones, an aquatic race who worship the Elder God Cthulhu, are some of his best creations. Cthulhu by the way sleeps in a city beneath the ocean and should he ever wake WILL DOOM US ALLLLL! ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

So, elder god, undersea city, mysterious drilling rig explosion, Vincent Cassel looking shifty. You're picking up what I'm putting down, right? Good, good.

It is in fairness played in a really fun way: a brief shot of a sketch of Cthulhu on a wall. The implication that it's what the drilling rig was looking for. The Captain's dubious past. All of it speaks to another story happening just off shot and trusts the audience to assemble what they need. A lot of people didn't like it. At all. I dug it a good deal and even when the movie abandons caution, it still works.

This isn't seeing horror approach. This is watching horror punch the building next to you knowing you're next but your friends might not be. Here Lovecraft is a destination not a landscape, something sketched in enough for some audience members and not too much for others. It's an attempt, and not a fully  successful one, to re-contextualize him rather than excuse him. It doesn't work because undersea silt is, it turns out, not the best thing to cover your third act in, but there's still some really good stuff in there and a belter of a performance from Stewart. Not successful, but not unworthy and possibly the oddest mainstream horror movie you'll see this year.

And speaking of odd...
The Lighthouse, on the surface (HA!) is not just a more overt horror movie but a more overtly Lovecraftian one. Veteran lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake (Willem Defoe) is obsessed with the light he guards to pornographic levels. Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) is new to the job, haunted, irritable and keeps dreaming of a mermaid who shrieks with a seagull's voice. Locked together on a remote lighthouse for a month, the two men have no choice but to face down every single one of their failings, again and again. Here, true horror isn't seeing something approach, it's sharing a table with it. Every. Single. Night.

Robert and Max Eggers' script is at its best when it embraces the two poles of the story embodied by its characters. Ephraim has fresh eyes and is almost instantly overwhelmed by the casual psychological abuse of Thomas and the hellish demands of the job. Pattinson seethes like no actor on earth and the moment towards the end where he finally cooks off and just verbally demolishes the older man is vastly satisfying.

It also doesn't do anything, which is where the horror lies for Ephraim. He shows up with his magical plot basket full of secret angst, becomes convinced that there's something supernatural about Wake's relationship with the lighthouse and, for him, the answers don't matter. Out here, past the breakers, Ephraim has tried to escape. Instead, all he's left with is the noise in his own head. It curdles reality and ultimately costs him everything. Or gives him exactly what he wants, depending on how you read the ending.

Ephraim is a monosyllabic open book. Thomas is a motormouth enigma, endlessly talking but never actually saying anything. Defoe's violently cheerful gregariousness is every terrible boss you've ever had, farting through his longjohns all the way through your sleep shift. He's also pretty clearly broken in ways Ephraim can only guess at, frequently visiting the light naked, possibly masturbating to it and at one point appearing as a cackling barnacled monstrosity.

Except, of course, this is all from Ephraim's point of view and narrator, thy name is unreliable. For me, that's the true nature of the horror here, as we're denied certainty and closure in exactly the same way the two men are. Thomas might be something more than human. Ephraim may kill a one-eyed gull who is the reincarnation of Thomas' former partner. The closest we get to certainty is a final desperate attack from Thomas, screaming something that sounds like 'YOU CAN'T HAVE HER, SHE'S MINE'. It does precious little good, for either man. But, once again, something huge brushes past us in the mist and here, returns to the sea. True horror not approaching, but receding, leaving nothing but silence and blood.

Underwater tries to re-contextualize Lovecraft through a post-Cloverfield lens and falls just short but with full marks for the unusual approach. The Lighthouse takes the exact opposite approach laying out an incredibly Lovecraftian setting and premise and then cheerfully refusing to do anything of the sort, opting for ambiguity the way Underwater doesn't. Technically it's vastly superior but what matters more is that there is plenty of room for all sorts of horror stories out in the wild, wild sea and these two movies embody both that welcome variety and the ambition to keep pushing the envelope.

Underwater and The Lighthouse are both, just about, still in cinemas.
Women in Horror Month Spotlight: Youtubers

Spooky Astronauts is not only the owner of perhaps the best Youtube name ever (and a Top 10 finalist in the Best Name Championship too) but an extremely on point, perceptive and funny movie critic.

Parasite

This image is one of hundreds you could pull from Parasite that embodies the central themes of the movie. Class warfare, the desperate desire to be more than you are, the slippery nature of that slope and what happens when you're forced down it rather than up. The movie explores all this, and much more, in one of the most deserving Oscar wins in recent memory.

Bong Joon Ho's latest is not quite as overtly horrific as The Host. Superficially it bears more resemblance to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels or even the British sitcom, Bread, as the main characters take advantage of apparent good fortune and ride it all the way up the hill. The literal hill, because the house which becomes a battleground is at the top of a valley and the family's semi-basement apartment is at the bottom.

They know their place. They do not like it.

The Kim family have no manner of luck at all. They work temporary jobs, are poor and seem to have little chance of getting anything better in life. Until a friend of Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), gifts the family a Scholar's Rock and an offer. He's tutoring a rich girl who lives up the hill. He's about to go and study abroad and trusts Ki-woo to not make a move on her while he's away. Besides, it's implicitly stated, he knows his friend needs the money.

This inciting incident is the movie to the core. An apparent moment of good will and charity wrapped in strings and dark motives. The girl in question, Da-hye (Jung Ji-so) isn't even at University yet and he's already got her earmarked. It's skeevy, flashes past in an eyeblink but sets the tone for the rest of the movie. No one acts without motive here. Nothing comes for free.

The same is true of Ki-woo, who with forged papers and quick wits, aces the interview and gets the job. In short order, he gets his sister Ki-jeong (the wonderfully laconic Park-So-dam) hired as 'Jessica', the family's new art tutor. Ki-jeong frames their driver, and gets her father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) hired to replace him. Finally, they manipulate the live-in housekeeper so she's fired for ill heath and Chung-sook, the family's mother played by Jang Hye-jin is hired as her replacement. All of this is played out with deadpan glee, the poor getting one over on their unknowing 'betters'.
That changes in a pivotal sequence which shifts the film into horror, high farce, black comedy, tragedy and then straight back out into abject terror. A disastrous evening sees the family discover their employers, the Parks, are living on uncertain ground. The previous housekeeper has a secret in the basement, and as the Parks clash with her, the movie careens from frantic farce to locked-off horror. There's a stunt fall here which is, by some distance, the nastiest one I've ever seen. You wince, and wince harder when the consequences become apparent even as upstairs everything is still in full farce mode.

That conflict, that mercurial element is what makes Parasite work. Everyone in the movie, from the Parks' youngest daughter to Ki-taek are harboring secrets they barely recognize as such. A moment of horrific violence erupts from a moment of social embarrassment. The scholar's rock defies the laws of physics to drag Ki-woo further down a seemingly impossible path. Finally, every jigsaw piece locks in to create an ending which features an utterly appropriate moment of justice, another impossible dream and a sense of circuits being closed. The status isn't quo, the system isn't right. But the ending takes a step towards it being right enough. Or perhaps tells us it does. The choice is ours and, hopefully, we make better choices than the characters in this fiercely intelligent, compassionate and immensely satisfying movie. 

Parasite is on general release now and you should absolutely see it. In fact, if you can, see it with Knives Out, they complement one another brilliantly.


New reader? Find The Full Lid archive here.
Follow this link to Boldly Go to my ko-fi.

 
Women in Horror Month Spotlight: Youtubers

Madeline Swann is always worth your time, both as an author and a Youtuber. Here's her round-up of some of the best female horror channels from last year's WiHM.

Signal Boost

Editor's note: I bought Alasdair's Valentine's Day card from Sandra. Not only did it arrive overseas in time, she sent us one with tacos on it. Perfection. That's this week's Signal Boost, folks. If you have a project you'd like to see here, get in touch.
Women in Horror Month Spotlight: Youtubers

There's a vast array of talented female narrators on Youtube: Eden's one of the most versatile.

Department of Received Esoteric Print Goods


It has been a very cool week. As well as that lovely, witty, hits me square between my 'Child of the 80's eyes' Harrow Lake proof and the post-apocalyptic vines of Koli (good work, Naz!), I received this:
 
That's not just a very cool book you'll be reading about here shortly (congratulations, Una!), it's the first review copy I've ever received addressed to 'The Full Lid'.

This was a GOOD week.

Got a zine? A postcard? An RPG? I want to do this feature regularly so if you've an esoteric printed goods creator, get in touch via Twitter.
Women in Horror Month Spotlight: Youtubers

Reignbot does urban myth, Youtube cults, creepy pasta and all sorts of other stuff.

The Disney+ Experiment Update


We're at depth, folks! Thanks to some extremely generous donors we not only have the funds for Disney+ but I think enough to commission a logo modification from my very favorite graphic designer Metz!

So with that in mind, here's what I'm thinking for next steps:
  • Everyone who donates via KoFi up to midnight Friday GMT (i.e. TODAYYYY!) will get the Disney+ supplement
  • You can opt out at any time
  • I'm going to be covering the Marvel shows hitting later this year as well as The Mandalorian as starting primary focus.
  • Secondary will be interesting side projects or documentaries
  • It will definitely be shorter than The Full Lid
  • It definitely won't be called The Full Mouse
  • I'm thinking The Full LiD with a Disneyfied 'D' or maybe just The Full Lid Plus.
  • Mouse ears, having consulted with my legal counsel (thanks honey! I love you!) will not feature in the new logo.
Editor's note: You're welcome. Please don't make Disney sue us.
  • Yes this absolutely means an MCU re-watch is going to happen at some point.
  • Content from the supplement will get dropped in here once a month or so.
Sounds like fun? The Ko-Fi link is over here.
Women in Horror Month Spotlight: Youtubers

Rue Morgue is always worth your time and this is no exception.

Hack The Panic!

I talked myself out of a panic attack this week. Here's what happened, and here's how we did it.

Symptoms
I don't get bad ones very often but I can always tell when they're starting to hit. My temperature and my heart rate both spike, I can't sit still and whatever I'm doing I do very, very fast. What I'm feeling is that I'm not done with something or I am done and have somehow missed the off ramp, which presents as nervousness and irritability.

Cause
This one was grounded entirely in a physical reaction. Walking to the station to meet Marguerite takes me past Thames Tower which is:
  • brand new
  • partially occupied
  • clearly somewhere Nate Ford would run a heist from the top floor of
What's not on that list is the wicked cross wind it creates across the station concourse.  So I round the corner by the tower and this 65 mile an hour wall of air punches me in the head. That by itself would be okay. I'm Manx, we know wind, rain, the ocean and we're working really hard on losing casual bigotry's phone number. Bad weather doesn't scare me.

Not being able to breathe does.

I came into this year with a stress-induced chest infection. It made me slow and short of breath, all the time. That fed back into terrible body confidence issues which bred frustration, anger and all that stuff Yoda informs us big nope this is from me, dawg. A side effect of that was my nose was blocked a lot of the time. A side effect of THAT was I got used to mouth breathing so I didn't, you know, die. Shifting back across felt weird and uncomfortable and, for a while, caused sleep problems.

Humans: what happens when sentience opens the bag of Lego but doesn't read the instructions.

Then there's the visceral sense memory of being on Prestatyn Beach, the wind ripping the breath from me as it sprinted over the ocean to Ireland and it just not stopping and being genuinely scared and having to cup my hands over my mouth to breathe and knowing no one I was with would notice or care I was in trouble so why should I say anything and

You get the idea.

Response
So this crested and built and I did something very, very right. I said, out loud, 'I don't feel very good.' Marguerite immediately put down what she was working on and asked me to tell her what I was experiencing. I told her about the beach and the wind. I told her about feeling like I didn't have an off-ramp. I walked all the way around this thing, even as it crested and grew and together we mapped the size of it and why it was there. The moment we did that?

My heart rate and temperature dropped. Almost instantly. The cylinder of tightness in my chest disappeared. I unclenched, went through the nervous hyper chatty phase I always get on the other side of this thing and then... leveled out. We made a couple of state changes (I changed seat, we put some lights on, I drank some water) and it just dissipated. 

Next Time
I am very aware how lucky I am to have a partner who was there and was able to help talk me through the attack. That externalization helped vastly and I think there's a way to replicate it: Socratic dialogue (what Cris is doing in Picard, basically), externalizing part of your approach to try and see what's happening from a different perspective.

I know panic attacks are different for everyone. For me, what worked was asking myself (or having someone ask me) questions like:
  • What are you feeling?
  • Why do you think that is?
  • Did something happen today to cause this?
  • What would make you comfortable?
Here's the thing, I am not under any circumstances a Doctor or indeed DOK-TOR. I know brains are unique, brilliant, awful things and each one is a lock we unpick differently, every day, often multiple times. But, this? For me? This week? Really helped. And mental health stigma is bullshit. So it it might help you too, brilliant.

Signing Off / Playing Out

By the time you read this I will be in That London where Marguerite and I are doing a pizza-making course at Borough Market, then eating the pizza we just made.

*BEST*
*EXAM*
*EVER*

There will, of course, be photos up on the Team KennerStuart Instagram. Plus we're knocking around for a chunk of Saturday too so who knows what photographic delights await! Or indeed on the the Twitters.

This work is produced for free. If you like what you read please consider dropping something in the tip jar. Thank you :).

Happy Valentine's Day, Galentine's Day and everything in between. Be kind to yourself today, everybody, you're six weeks into the future and you're doing GREAT. Oh and Happy Valentine's day, hon! I love you!

Editor's note: <3

To play us out, of course, is Nat King Cole. Because believe me this?
is a Full Lid.
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Agathon Towers · Cheapside Road · Reading, Berkshire RG1 7AG · United Kingdom

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