While editing The Blackapple Brugh for Basic Fantasy RPG, I noticed its cover and the striking artwork adorning it. A post from its author, Kyle Hettinger, pointed me to the artist he commissioned, Vasily Ermolaev. I LOVE the dark colors and strong lines used in the illustrations, as well as the variety of places and figures.
Aindulmedir – The Winter Scriptures
Archean Nights – Long Forgotten Cities II
ASKII – Hegelburg at Night
The Crippled God – Deadhouse
FULCI – Exhumed Information
Innesti – Apperception
Keys to Oneiria – Worlds Between
Loscil – Clara
Malfet – The Snaking Path
MicroMatscenes – Hot Shots
Nanonovo – Origins
Useless – Hexa
Ana Roxanne – ~~~
Ana Roxanne’s debut ~~~ has been on the best-sellers chart on Bandcamp ever since its release. She has also been featured in three(!) articles: an artist feature, part of a Best Ambient monthly highlight, as well as an article on those associated with Mills College. I admit I didn’t really listen to it until recently, and like most ambient albums it takes its time to really unfold and envelope the listener, showing its true nature. The entire album, especially the first track, can really catch you off-guard and tap into your emotional core whether you’re prepared for it or not. This may be an album you really want to listen to alone, with the best headphones you can afford.
Darken Wood – VI
The sixth of currently-seven releases, Darken Wood’s VI is a wonderfully subdued dungeon synth album. It is one you can play and really turn up the volume, and be enveloped in its sounds and atmosphere. That’s a hallmark of truly great ambient music, and this album has it!
Delmak-O – The Colony
I first wrote about Delmak-O last September. Its album cover caught my eye, and its music kept my attention the whole way through. Now we have The Colony, a sequel and continuation of “the search for a new planet”. This is a much more subdued album compared to Cerulean Tomb, and took a few more listens to really get into it and appreciate its nuanced music. Where as the previous album felt warm and yet mysterious, this one has an underlying current of terror and unknown, and is far colder. It is different, but definitely still a great release!
Spell of Unseeing – Weaving Light and Shadow
From the creative mind of Tim Rowland (Hole Dweller, Bellkeeper) comes yet another moniker and fantastic dungeon synth release, Spell of Unseeing’s Weaving Light and Shadow. This is a fairly short release, and every time I listened to the album it was over before I realized it. As brief as the experience is, it is a great one. While I enjoy Tim’s other projects, this is by far my favorite, and I certainly he has plans for future releases!
Note: while there is an updated/remastered version, this post is for the original game
Like many horror games, Midnight Shift was one I first learned about in a Markiplier play-through. I really liked the atmosphere and aesthetics, as short of a game as it is. Recently as I was browsing itch.io I saw this game, and decided to play it myself, to see if it still held up.
The first thing I noticed right away is the response to the keyboard and mouse; it is definitely delayed and laggy. On the pause screen, it still reacts to the mouse moving around, which is quite strange and a tad annoying. But, the graphics and atmosphere are still top notch! The red light was quite blocky on my system. Like most PC games I really wish there was an adjustable field-of-vision, it is set far too low. One of the first few trigger events, picking up the storage room key, caused the game to freeze for a few seconds.
The mannequins are of course still creepy; are they ever not? The ones that always turn their heads to keep looking at you are the worst, in the best way! Picking up the two keys slightly changes the level layout, as well as the number of mannequins and the poses they’re in. Approaching the exit, you definitely feel as if you’re being escorted to your doom.
While the credits show this was a project at Edmonton Digital Arts College, clicking its icon/link reveals the school has actually closed, which is unfortunate. I really enjoyed this short experience, and would love to play more like it!
After the very mixed reactions to The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson returned with Knives Out. This title harks back to his earlier release, Brick, with its aspects of a mystery (although this time a more “traditional” whodunnit). Featuring a large cast of unique actors playing similarly-unique characters, it’s almost a misnomer to call this a mystery/whodunit movie. It’s really more of a family drama, in the guise of the former.
Soon after the movie begins, we witness Harlan Thrombey’s death. Whether it’s an actual murder or accident, that is the mystery as the movie unfolds, along with who might have actually caused it to happen. Interspersed with flashbacks, we see each family member the night before, some leaving earlier than others, each with their own level of suspicion. As the movie progresses we spend time with each member, coming to realize that truly none of them are altruistic nor selfless in any way.
In addition to the police, we are treated to the role of Detective Benoit Blanc, hired under mysterious circumstances, played by Daniel Craig. This is where viewers and fans of the film are divisive, due to the character’s odd southern accent. Calling it a mocking Foghorn Leghorn/Colonel Sanders would not be too far off the mark, but Daniel takes it and runs, and it’s a great unique aspect of his character as he interviews and learns more from each family member and those who worked for them.
Along with the private detective, we follow Marta, Harlan’s nurse, as she deals with his death, inquiries from the police, and reactions from the family. She is of course understandably upset about what happened, and is torn between avoiding trouble for herself and her family as well as wanting to tell what really happened and that the cause for Harlan’s death was truly an accident.
In a brilliant manner, in both the writing and acting, we see how the family treats and thinks of Marta. Not a single one of them refers to her true country of origin, and in one scene that was apparently ad-libbed she is handed an empty plate as if she was nothing more than a servant. I think the only thing I wish we saw was how Marta came to know Harlan and was hired/chosen to be his nurse. In their brief time at the beginning it clearly showed they were friendly if not true friends, and it would have been great to see more of that.
Leading up to the climax of the film, Marta is with Ransom, who slowly becomes more and more unhinged and revealed to be the true narcissist and wrong-doer(?) of the family. Trying to learn more through Marta, he maneuvers her and Benoit and gets oh-so-close to framing her for the murder.
In the glorious climactic scene of the movie, he thinks he has her in a crucial lie in front of Benoit and the police detectives. Instead, Marta reveals that Ransom killed Fran, the housekeeper. In a rage, Ransom grabs one of the dozens of knives arranged in a large circle in the room, lunging at Marta and determined to kill her even if it means his imprisonment. We are left stunned, thinking he actually killed her; after a moment Marta breathes, the knife merely a prop with a retractable blade. Ransom is taken away, and Marta looks down from her new home at the remaining family members.
In a way I was a bit hesitant to watch this movie. I had heard little bits about it here and there, and knowing it was a murder-mystery only served to pique my interest even more. As previously mentioned it turned out to be more of a family drama, and what a family it is! Clever writing and directing mixed perfectly with this cast that all perfectly fit their roles and brought them to life (I really can’t think of a single actor or role that felt out of place or not “up to snuff” compared to all the other ones). This was clearly a passion project for Rian, and I’m happy to see how well it turned out and has been received. With at least two(!) upcoming sequels coming from Netflix, following Detective Blanc, I’m quite curious to see what he has in store.