Lets Play Mundaun: A Swiss horror folk tale that is everything I ever wanted

Michel Ziegler’s and Hidden Field’s gorgeous game “Mundaun” has been my biggest surprise of the year when it comes to horror games, so far. Set in the isolated municipality of Mundaun, somewhere after the first world war, we play as the lovely and kind Curdin who comes back to Mundaun after his grandfather died in a barn fire. Well, guess what, this is a horror game, so the fire was no accident and there is a big old curse on grandpa but also the entirety of Mundaun. Since Curdin is just a super nice bloke, it’s up to us to find out what happened and lift the curse.

Play the Game yourself and get it on Steam or for your Playstation. FYI: I played it on the PC and it played smoothly and without any glitches or hiccups.

Mundaun is entirely hand-drawn and looks gorgeous. If you go on the Steam page of the game, you’ll find some amazing videos of how Michel Ziegler did his research and how he adapted actual houses, art and a gorgeous church to the screen. Admitted, it took me a while to get used to the slightly crude drawing style and the sepia tones but they fit the game’s atmosphere which is always a little bit oppressive, like it’s not just the mountains looming over you. And they offer some moments of true beauty (and horror).

The gameplay is diverse, easy to adapt and a lot of fun. You have different ways to interact with the world, you can fight with different weapons (don’t worry, this is no shooter, so it’s just a few to chose your own fighting style) and you can even cook coffee which usually offers a great moment of zen.

Mundaun is an open world environment that is not too overwhelming but invites you to explore, level up (yes, that’s an option and it’s fun!) and solve puzzles, fight folklore monsters and take the story further.

Swiss folklore makes for a unique story

The story itself should be especially unique for non-European players since it is deeply embedded in Swiss fairy tales and folklore where devils can take on any form, animals might talk and humor is always part of a deal with the devil. The storytelling is stellar in Mundaun with every single detail adding to either the world or explain more about the story. Everything you find, hear and read has its place and makes it all the more enjoyable putting together all the pieces to solve the mystery. I would also wager that this makes a replay quite worthy since it will be interesting to see how the game’s storytelling puts everything into place when you know where it’s headed.

Opposed to many other indie horror games, you actually get to meet people and interact with them and be happy: not everyone dies a horrible death immediately after they met you (looking at you, Amnesia, Outlast and Resident Evil). The people of Mundaun are eccentric but not annoyingly so and provide plenty of charm and humor to the game.  

Well-earned scares and plenty of beautiful enemies

Oh, but I was also mentioning monsters, wasn’t I? At the beginning I wasn’t sure whether the monster design really worked for me but since we don’t just get one enemy design slightly differing in size (something that horror games really like to do), we get a whole diverse range of weirdos who want to harm us in different ways. Each and everyone moves and acts differently which is a genius way to make sure that there’s a scary monster for everyone. Personally, the beekeepers took 20 years of my life but chose your own nightmare fuel.

Speaking of scary stuff: Mundaun is not just diverse when it comes to gameplay options and enemies but also when it comes to its atmosphere and scares. From sound effects, to a (gorgeous) soundtrack to creepy cutscenes, shadowplays up to horrifying imagery – Mundaun managed to scare me over and over again because it knew how to divert expectations, surprise me at the right time and create tension. It’s exemplary on that account because it is just as scary when you try to evade creepy hay monsters as when you follow shadows and sounds in the tight corridors of a bunker.

Last but not least, let me tell you why I don’t just like but love Mundaun: it has heart.

It makes a difference and it is noticeable when the writers/developers of a game really care for each and every character, when the protagonist doesn’t just act out of fear or purpose but out of kindness and when the humor is not sarcastically mean-spirited but offers actual release from the oppressing atmosphere of a cursed mountain village with charm and wit.

I loved Mundaun to bits and I can’t wait to revisit it at some point to discover new details and try out different ways to play the game.

If you want to see me bumbling, laughing and shivering through Mundaun, here’s the start of my Lets Play.

Horror cinema and the case of revenge, beauty and the perfect victim

Recently, everbody has been talking about “Promising Young Woman”, a promising and quite fantastic revenge thriller written and directed by Emerald Fennell and starring the always amazing Carrey Mulligan as a woman traumatized by the past abuse and subsequent suicide of her best friend.

Now, aside from the mainly positive reviews, the movie also made headlines because movie critic Dennis Harvey actually thought and even wrote in a published public review, that Mulligan is not hot enough to be convincing in the role of a femme fatale. Hilarity but also anger ensued because apart from Mulligan being pretty much the poster actress of looking gorgeous, cute and beautiful all at once, it’s astounding that the looks of any female protagonist is still under scrutiny by male critics when – let’s just not name names – the shlobbiest shlobs manage to play every single roll imaginable in every movie genre without anyone blinking an eye.

But here’s where I stumbled, when I looked at “Promising Young Woman” and the long and loving history of thriller and horror movies that feature strong women seeking for revenge: when will unattractive women be permitted to go on their revenge sprees?

Look, the horror genre in itself is unfortunately male-dominated when it comes to production, writing, directing and casting, even though at least half of the main audience is female or non-binary. So, it seems not surprising, that any female protagonist has a certain look. But even in movies that are written and directed by women, the hot protagonist is the one who gets their revenge and I really wonder whether that somehow feeds into the myth of the “perfect victim”, you know, the cognitive dissonance we have, when any victim of abuse and/or trauma is not what we expect, like they were drunk or usually have one-night-stands or are – gasp – not conventionally attractive.

Do we really still need a gorgeous woman telling the story for all women because otherwise, no one would watch it? Is it really necessary to have a beautiful woman pretend to be drunk to be taken advantage of? The answer to both questions is: no, because who the fuck cares how the actress looks when she is our catharsis and honestly, no man cares about looks when it comes to rape. That was one of the main reasons why Harvey got the metaphorical twitter beating that he deserved. But that should also be the main reason to finally give those main roles of revenge horror and thrillers to actresses who are not thin, have full lips, big eyes and just the right symmetry to be also able to play that pixie manic dream girl. Don’t hide behind the old excuses that only pretty women make for good horror and thriller heroines.

Horror Movie List: Witches will get you and eat you, that’s just how it is

Witches are an amazing thing. They exist pretty much all over the world in myths and fairy tales in one form or the other. They are usually closely bound to nature and represent its healing and destroying powers. They are desired when people can’t seem to help themselves with what current science has to offer and they are feared (and blamed) whenever things go wrong. And boy oh boy, can they wreak havoc. I love witches. From the Russian Babajaga in her lovely house on a rooster’s foot to that gnarly old broad in her cookie house luring kids in for a nice BBQ.

They also make for some amazing movie villains because they are so carnal and dark, earthy and cruel if they need be. They can be everything and nothing. Yes, there’s loads of awful trash movies with witches but those movies that get them wrong are pretty fantastic.

So, let’s go!

The Witch (2015)

Look, I hardly understand what the protagonist’s are talking about half of the time due to the historical accuracy of their dialects but this movie is one hellride of creating an atmosphere that sits heavy in your stomach the entire time, like waking up in the middle of the night, not knowing why but feeling that there is something off. It’s absolutely gorgeous, disgusting and really disturbing. It’s also one of those movies that I wouldn’t recommend to casual horror fans because there are some “can’t be unseen”-scenes. But boy oh boy, if there ever was someone doubting that witches are scary – what a fool.

Blair Witch Project (1999)

Hey, you didn’t think I would leave our beloved Blair Witch out, now did you? I also wonder whether by now, this movie might be something to discover anew for younger generations since it’s been ages since it came out. And I wonder whether it packs a punch for these generations because it is quite low on the cool effects-scale and instead works a lot with rattling your imagination.  

Gretel & Hänsel (2020)

This artsy horror movie is absolutely gorgeous and does a great job in mixing modern imagery with the folksy earthen terror of being poor and lost in the woods. Galo Olivares did the cinematography and Oz Perkins directed, who is kinda known for gorgeous, brooding horror movies with a kick (also, he’s working on “Head full of Ghosts”, a favorite novel of mine so I can’t wait to see what he turns it into).

Alice Krige is an absolute delight and the story itself has this beautiful surreal air to it, like a modern sequel to “The Company of Wolves” but without the anthology-aspect.

In this version of the Grimm folk tale, it’s not Hänsel but Gretel who gets tied up deeper and deeper in the witches’ spell (which – I guess – is the reason why the title switches their names). It might be a smidge “style over substance” and that voice-over tends to break the mood a little bit but since the movie nevertheless offers some tantalising images and has a great, tense atmosphere, I’ll allow it.

The Wretched (2020)

Whatever you think this movie will be when you see the first 10 minutes, I can assure you, it will be wrong. This movie is absolutely genius, hiding a truly disturbing, terrifying concept (with some big scares) under the guise of your suburbian “weird neighbour” horror plot. It’s probably one of the very few big horror surprises for me this year and has all the witch horror you need.  

Also, if you want witchy songs, here’s a fun playlist for them.

And you’ll find more horror movie lists here.  

Horror movie list: Science and the other side = intense terror

I LOVE possession stories in books as well as in horror movies, especially those that dabble with science because obviously in real life, most if not all cases of possession can be explained by modern science, especially psychology but in fiction, it can always be mixed up with a “but is it really just in your mind?” (cue Twilight Zone-music).

So, for the following list, I tried to put together a list of movies about possessions that are tackled as scientific phenomenons, manipulations that only need to be uncovered or other quite natural explanations. Of course, they all go awry because a fake exorcism is just super sad and depressing and reminds you of the atrocities of the catholic church but a real exorcism at least has some spoopy demon faces.

It’s one of my favourite sub-genres of horror, so if you have recommendations, I will be very happy to receive them in the comments.

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Review and Lets Play: Maid of Sker – a Welsh Horror game mixed with Greek myths

My first short horror game combines many things I love (creepy music, gothic houses and a dog!) but also offers many things I am not really good at (being stealthy and smart, remembering where to go and reading maps). However, lets come along as we try to help composer Thomas who travels to the far corners of Wales to safe his beloved Elizabeth from the clutches of her apparently evil family that uses a mysterious song and creature to … well, to what? That’s really not clear to be honest. However, did I mention that there would be a dog?

Maid of Sker – Game Review

I figured, with a neat little game like that, I might just as well do a small review, in case anyone is interested in the game to play it themselves. The Lets Play episodes are below.

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Horror movie list: Don’t play with occult things, honey!

Oh hey, look at that Ouija board/creepy doll/weirdly intricate old toy/old book with human leather binding, let’s totally fiddle with it, until really horrible not-good things are happening! < basically every character in the following movies.

Now, I will not add movies where people are deliberately using occult objects to seriously do occult stuff (like “Hellraiser”, for example) but only movies where people think it’s fun to play around with occult things.

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Horror Movie List: Bad Things Happen at the Beach

Frying in the sun with a thousand people, getting hit with a volley ball by nearby attractive young people and spending the following week finding sand everywhere – beaches are the worst. Now imagine how bad they are whenever monsters, supernatural events or whatnot are involved – yikes.

However, watching the horror unfold in movies is a lot more fun than immediately getting sunburnt, so enjoy this playlist.

Jaws (1975)

This little-known indie gem is about a lovely beach town plagued by a killer shark. However, since tourist season is coming up, it’s up to a rag tag crew (played by a bunch of actors who hated each other’s guts) to fight not only the shark but also capitalism.

Family lore tells the story of my grandpa watching this one with the family and casually excusing himself because he thought the movie was ‘dumb’ just before it got really ugly. Rumor has it, that he didn’t actually think that the movie was dumb but was indeed trying to hide the fact that he was scared of that fin-tastic big boi.

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Horror Movie List: Everyone and everything can kill you in space

Space Horror – what a concept!

Look, you’re up in a vessel with a bunch of people under physical and mental strain, everything outside kills you, everything inside is so delicate that it doesn’t take much to malfunction and then there’s of course the whole thing about eldritch beings in space, aliens, black holes and whatnot. All in all: space is scary.

(if you like this, you also might enjoy people stuck in a submarine or underwater station)

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Horror movie list: Haunted Attractions

I love horror movies and novels and even the occasional horror game (although more as a “let’s play-viewer”, I get too immersed!). But I would never in a million years go to a modern haunted attraction to get screamed at, touched and be filmed for a Buzzfeed list. I mean, best case, the picture/video of my horrified, crying, snot-covered face ends up in a viral listicle and worst-case scenario, I get actually killed by actual ghosts.

However, I am not everyone, and everyone is crazy about haunted attractions right now. Not just in real life but in movies as well.

So, here’s a pick of a few haunted attraction-horror movies as well as a few movies about those weird scare events that are not restricted to a house and are therefore even worse but still seem to find willing and paying participants.

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Horror movie lists: Fairies and trolls

Horror movies are obsessed with folklore. However, most of the time, it’s some ancient evil from faraway lands which sometimes can verge on xenophobia but most of the time is just a nice comment on how white tourists/people just can’t be bothered to respect other cultures and therefore should die (one of my favorite horror sub-genres is dumb tourists getting cursed on their holidays).

BUT Europe has some pretty cool terrors hiding in their fairy tale-vaults as well. For this list, I picked fairies and trolls because Europe is big and it would be an endless list but also I know a lot of creepy fairy-movies and this one troll movie that I really want to include.
Now, as all the other lists, this will be an ongoing collection of movies that I liked that cover this. There are the occasional spoilers, especially when it comes to the theme of the movie, I mean, that’s a given but you know the internet.

So let’s get started.

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