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5AM Gaming: Reconsidering the Gentle Zen of ‘No Man’s Sky’

Hello. Nice to meet you. My name is Monica. I’ve been playing video games for 33 years and 55 days. I can still remember the exact moment the bug hit me: Christmas Eve, 1984. My first computer. I was eight years old.

If we were in a Gamers Anonymous meeting that would be my greeting to you.

So, to summarize:

1) I’m old, and yes, I own that shit
2) I’ve watched the gaming industry and games themselves grow and evolve over the course of my entire life. And I played my way through it all, from the cartridges I jammed into the back of my Commodore 64 to the floppy diskettes of games I covertly traded with my elementary school friends on the playground, through the early consoles and hand-helds and back again, and then to smartphones and tablets. These days my preferred gaming rig is a souped-up PC. Consider it my mothership. It’s where the magic happens.

Perhaps an apt name to give it, considering my introductory column will be a 2018 revisit of the 2016 space exploration title No Man’s Sky, the expansive open universe game that (perhaps) got an unjustly bad rap upon its release, but in the wake of two years of updates and evolution certainly warrants a current-day revisit, especially if you purchased it back then and quickly abandoned it to collect dust on your shelf.
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31 Days of Horror: Monica S. Kuebler Hungers for Blood with Midnight Son

I have a thing for vampires. I won’t tell you how much of a thing, since I’m pretty sure I began last year’s 31 Days of Horror Biff Bam Pop! guest post by doing just that. But let’s just say, Andy invited me back and I picked another vampire movie. If he calls on me next year, the outcome will likely be the same. It’s a big thing.

The reason vampires are my number one monster largely comes down to versatility. They can be used to tell horror stories, fantasy stories, sci-fi stories, romance stories – you name it, really. They can be anything from grotesque and monstrous to almost mistakably, sympathetically human, and all points in between. And their narratives can be just as grand or just as slight as the opposite ends of that spectrum allow for. With vampires, the possibilities feel endless. It’s hard to be bored with a bloodsucker in the room.

And it’s damn hard to pick favourites.

So I’m not going to.

Instead, I’m going to tell you about a little vampire movie you may have missed, but one that should be on your radar, particularly if you’ve fallen under the thrall of the slow-burn soul searching and quiet suffering of films such as Byzantium (2012) and Only Lovers Left Alive (2013).

Like those movies, 2011’s Midnight Son won’t tell you the whole story – it begins and ends somewhere in the middle. While not as lush or stylish as either of the previously mentioned films, its realness and desperation function in a similar manner. Want a look at vampirism without the lens of escapist fantasy? Want a look at what it would be like in the real world, in our modern world? Look here. It’s messy, problematic, and dangerous.

Midnight Son is the sole feature from writer/director Scott Leberecht (better known for his visual effects work on blockbusters such as Spawn, Sleepy Hollow and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters), who commands a cast of largely unknown actors. It’s a film that never makes its main character Jacob’s vampirism implicit (in fact, I’m not sure the word is ever spoken aloud, though it is seen on a poster). When the movie begins, he is already “sick.” We do not know why or how he contracted the contagion or how long he’s suffered, only that it’s worsening. Read the rest of this entry

31 Days Of Horror 2016: Guest Writer Monica S. Kuebler on The Spierig Brothers’ Daybreakers (2009)

Do you have a favourite monster? If you do, you probably understand the lengths one will go to satiate that monster-mania.

Me? I love vampires. I don’t know what vampire book or film I saw first. I no longer remember when this lifelong love affair began. When I look back now, it seems like it was always there. I’m not selective in my vampire love either, though I do worship at the altar of a good story; I like the feral inhuman ones, the haughty aristocrats, the grotesque parasites, the misunderstood monsters, and even some of the teenage incarnations. Perhaps I love vampires for their versatility. They are a monster with a thousand stories.

In recent years, I’ve found myself fascinated with films and books that flip the “few bloodsuckers feeding off humanity (and must be destroyed)” narrative upside down and, instead, offer up detailed, well-thought-out vampire societies. One movie of that ilk that I keep coming back to is 2009’s Daybreakers, directed by The Spierig Brothers.

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