When most people see a goaltender’s hockey mask, their mind immediately goes to Jason Voorhees, the famed slasher from Friday the 13th. If you grew up watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you might even think of their human vigilante pal Casey Jones. But for me, it’ll forever evoke the Terror Mask, an iconic, demonic artifact at the heart of Namco’s Splatterhouse series. Every time our hero Rick dons the Terror Mask to save his sweetheart Jennifer, you’re in for some astonishingly gory, brutally difficult, classic beat-’em-up action, and it is always glorious. The Terror Mask has taken many forms throughout the Splatterhouse series, just as each game offers a distinct, bloody flavor of ’empowered man beats grotesque monsters into fleshy pulp with his bare hands (and the occasional rusty pipe)’ brawling. But the 2010 Splatterhouse reboot showcases the Terror Mask in top form, and his commentary on all your hyper-violent creature killing easily justifies the price of admission.
The Terror Mask didn’t have much of a personality in the original 2D games, though it’s always played a unique central role to the story. Evil energies course through the Terror Mask, and its very existence seems to pull hellish demons from other dimensions towards a central location, twisting a mansion into the titular Splatterhouse consisting of flesh, bone, and blood. And though it’s basically a beacon for infernal horrors, the Terror Mask always offers its assistance to Rick in his time of need, supercharging his body with Herculean muscles befitting an ’80s action figure whenever he’s wearing it. Splatterhouse has always revolved around the Terror Mask, but it really came alive when we could hear it speak, courtesy of veteran voice actor Jim Cummings.
If you’ve watched a cartoon in the past three decades, you’ve probably heard Cummings’ distinctly gruff, warm voice. He’s played the parts of both Winnie the Pooh and Tigger since 1990, starred as Darkwing Duck, and was the Cat half of CatDog. But I’ll always think of him as Pete, the husky scoundrel from myriad Disney cartoons, who I grew to love in his role as the oafish next-door neighbor in Goof Troop. Those are just a few of Cummings’ many roles in beloved shows – but through some truly inspired casting, Splatterhouse makes him into a foul-mouthed talking mask who revels in viscera-spraying executions, knows everything there is to know about demonic dimensions, and drops F-bombs like nobody’s business. Because it’s impossible to disassociate Cummings’ distinctive voice from his other roles, there’s really no avoiding the mental connection. Best to just go with it and accept that Pete of Goof Troop, Kingdom Hearts, and Epic Mickey fame is now gleefully instructing you to rip out monsters’ guts and paint the walls with the bright red blood of your enemies.
Splatterhouse’s writing may not have won any industry awards, but I absolutely love the dialogue between the Terror Mask and Rick, who plays the conscientious straight man to the wise-cracking, bloodthirsty relic that’s fused itself to his face. The Terror Mask’s many quips, disses, and snarky observations are just as punchy as the game’s combat, and made all the more hilarious by Cummings’ impressive, extensive filmography. I’d put Rick and the Terror Mask right up there with Shadow of the Damned’s Garcia Hotspur and Johnson on the list of ‘delightful duos from eccentric, cult-classic action games who can somehow make light of the terrifying, extremely life-threatening hellscape they’ve been sucked into’. I highly recommend that you play Splatterhouse for yourself, but if you’re strapped for cash or time, you can get a good taste of the Terror Mask’s terrific presence in the cutscene montage above. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite exchanges between Rick and the Terror Mask (which was inexplicably cut from the final game) – and if you’re afraid of clowns, please don’t take it personally.