Like A Man Possessed

Coincidence. An event which coincides with another similar event, can be seen as suspicious by some, supernatural even, hinting at greater meaning. Others can find such uncanny occurrences as a peculiar point of interest, remark as such, and move on.

More aligned to the latter, I was humoured when over the course of a day two forms of media converged on my screen that spanned a good 50 years of separation but with the same influence, and the realisation only setting in a good way into the second.

The Haunted Palace, directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price. A 1963 film based on the H.P. Lovecraft novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. And Splatterhouse, developed and published by Namco Bandai Games. A 2010 video game remake of the classic and seminal game of the same name from 1988, also based on the H.P. Lovecraft work.

Within both film and game the characters bear witness to their own set of coincidences and here the ramifications not so perfunctory.

In The Haunted Palace, Charles Dexter Ward travels to the town of Arkham to claim his inheritance – the former manor of Joseph Curwen, a distant ancestor who was burned alive by the villagers a century ago for practicing necromancy – where the villagers become alarmed to find Charles is the spitting image of Joseph. To them, this could only mean that Joseph had returned from the grave to exact his revenge as he had threatened to do during his killing.

In Splatterhouse, young couple Rick Taylor and Jennifer Willis travel to the town of Arkham and the manor of Dr. Henry West, a necrobiologist, for an interview. Here they find that Jennifer bears a striking resemblance to Dr. West’s long deceased wife Leonora, and soon Dr. West attacks leaving Rick mortally wounded and Jennifer taken away.

With these beginnings both will draw upon similar themes and plot points, with Charles Dexter Ward becoming possessed by the ghost of Joseph Curwen, and Rick Taylor possessed by a demon promising revenge. The two necromancers of Joseph and Dr. West have the same ultimate desire – to resurrect their former lovers. Murder and the summoning of demons just steps and tools needed to arrive at that same ultimate goal.

Love. The most possessive of emotions.

Loss of a love and the grief that follows is often used to drive a narrative. To create a sympathy for one’s insanity. While possession by ghosts and demons is fantastical, personality changes, depression, and other symptoms are certainly comparable. Are our friends Joseph and Dr. West just grief stricken and love sick medical practitioners misunderstood by society at large?

If they hadn’t succeeded in their plan, perhaps.

The Haunted Palace is a great film and comes recommended, especially if you enjoy classic horror and an excellent Vincent Price performance (I’m quite partial to both).

Splatterhouse showed promise and could have been a contender for horror game of the generation given more work. Instead, it suffers from instant death traps, bad checkpointing and extraordinarily long loading times. Unfortunately, with these combined, the game is left almost unplayable in some instances and better left for the most patient gamers only.

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1 Comment

Filed under H.P. Lovecraft, Splatterhouse, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Haunted Palace, Vincent Price

One response to “Like A Man Possessed

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