A Fortnight of Fright: Splatterhouse (1988)

Posted: October 21, 2011 in Retro
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As Halloween night draws near, Chad has taken it upon himself to dig into the vaults to bring you some of his favorite horror-themed video games in his Fortnight of Fright. Can you handle the madness? Read on, if you dare!

You’ve Got Red on You

Ah, Splatterhouse. I don’t care if the 2010 remake was tripe, the 1988 original and its two sequels were fantastic games. They were simple, no-nonsense beat-em-ups that had great, creepy atmosphere, delightfully creepy character design and excellent music. I played the arcade version of the original as a kid, and more recently I played the TurboGrafx-16 release on the Wii Virtual Console (because, like most of the human race, I never owned a TurboGrafx-16).

As I said in my series retrospective way back when I was still a guest writer, it’s a relatively simple game in terms of both mechanics and story. Rick rescuing his girlfriend is really the same story as Super Mario Bros, just with an ’80s horror flick window dressing. And as such, it manages to be a better game of  ’80s horror movies than the Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street games. It was just a solid game with a good theme and atmosphere, and suitably gross graphics. All story in the game was conveyed visually, and as simple as the story was, that’s for the best. It’s to gaming what Evil Dead is to movies. Silly, exploitative, and messy but in the end a hell of a fun ride.

Now is the part where I whine about how much I hate the 2010 version.

You’re probably thinking, “Gee, Chad, haven’t we been over this? I mean, you did write an entire review where you mercilessly panned the game.” Well, I’ve had about a year to mull over it, and I think there’s a deeper significance to the putrescent 2010 game than initially meets the eye. As anyone who follows the horror genre knows, original ideas seem to be few and far between. And this is nothing new – the horror genre is typically one of “new idea is making bank, let’s jump on the bandwagon!”. And in recent years there have been two subgenres of horror that have intertwined to some degree – the torture/gore film and the remake of older films. In many ways, Splatterhouse 2010 can be compared to Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween. The original components are all there, they’re just coated in unnecessary doses of brutality and vulgarity, turning from their original sources which placed more emphasis on atmosphere. It seems that there’s a trend in horror to celebrate brutality and gore; and you know, some of my favorite horror films (Re-Animator, Day of the Dead, The Beyond) are indeed packed to the brim with gore. But they have other things going for them, too. Splatterhouse 2010 and Halloween 2007 have no such excuses.

I miss the good old days when slaughtering monsters was a wholesome activity free of toilet humor.

Splatterhouse 2010 makes the mistake of trying to be “hardcore gore” rather than resembling anything actually horror-based. Or anything fun, for that matter. It’s more a celebration of bad taste than anything else, tied together with a script that simultaneously manages to rip off HP Lovecraft and completely miss the misanthropic thrust of those stories, all the while needlessly convoluting the original game’s simple plot. And the thing is, it tries to hide its shoddy game mechanics behind all the flying ketchup. I hold God of War and Bayonetta as the standard for good beat-em-up controls. God of War is plenty gruesome, but it still plays brilliantly. Bayonetta manages to be hilariously over-the-top without sacrificing the ability to cancel moves on the fly. And hey, neither Kratos nor Bayonetta are John Cena in a Jason mask.

And then…there’s the heavy metal soundtrack. Now, I like metal. I like horror. I don’t particularly like them together (although Dario Argento putting Iron Maiden’s “Flash of The Blade” in Phenomena is brilliant). You don’t like it? Too bad, you get a soundtrack full of Slayer wannabes that sound like they were recorded in a public bathroom. Because that’s HARDCORE! RAH!

Splatterhouse 2010 is just a vomit-colored stain on the series name, and may it forever be cursed to sell in the bargain bins of Hell, right next to Haze and Superman 64. As for the 16-bit Splatterhouse games, I’ll continue playing and recommending them as gruesome but wholly enjoyable classics.

View Previous Fortnight of Fright: Crypt Killer

View Next Fortnight of Fright: It Came From Red Alert!

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