As seen in: Splatterhouse (Arcade)
Also in: Wanpaku Graffiti Splatterhouse (Famicom)
Distinguishing feature: A magical, talking, hair-eating mask.
Strengths: "I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine."
Weaknesses: Absentmindedly drops weapons at the sight of a door or ladder; actually hates playing goalie.
Profile by Nicola Nomali | February 22, 2010
To the unfamiliar, Rick Taylor doesn't seem like a very relatable protagonist. The way he lumbers forward, reducing whatever crosses his path to a soft pile of quivering pulp, might imply that he's no less deranged than his gruesome surroundings. Any attempt to read his expression is stayed by the stony countenance of the Terror Mask upon his face, welcoming the notion that he's no more than a sociopathic killer. It might come as a surprise, then, that Rick is actually a more sympathetic character than most, indicated tacitly by his motives and actions (that is, actions beyond swinging an oversize meat cleaver like a baseball bat).
Rick's trouble began when he and fellow parapsychology major Jennifer Wills made an excursion to the remote and abandoned mansion of Dr. West, an expert in their field who had supposedly died in the midst of conducting some bizarre experiments. Rather than an opportunity, the pair should have taken West's fate as a warning -- for no sooner did they step inside his house than Rick was knocked senseless by unseen attackers, Jennifer's screams the last sound to reach his ears.
Awakening in a decrepit catacomb, Rick became brutally aware of the full breadth of West's madness: Skinless abominations, shackled zombies, bloody torsos wearing manic grins, and half-formed corpses hung from ropes or splayed in cells. But the more he explored, the more horrors emerged which couldn't even be attributed to West: Poltergeists, doppelgängers bursting from mirrors, and floorboards giving way to gnarled flesh. Only the Terror Mask, a sentient artifact which had fixed itself to Rick's face while he was unconscious, granted him the inhuman strength needed to survive.
When Rick finally reached the source of Jennifer's cries, a group of fiends were already hovering over her still frame. Rather than attack, however, they simply filed silently out of the room. Then, miraculously, Jennifer rose to greet him -- smiled like she always did, called him "darling" despite his transformed state. But they didn't even have a chance to embrace before she began thrashing in pain, spitting up blood as she mutated into the most fearsome demon Rick would ever see. Tanned, leathery skin hung in tatters from bare muscle, but worse was its cackle -- sickeningly reminiscent of Jennifer's dulcet voice. Rick was helpless but to tear apart what had once been his beloved, his only remaining light in this living nightmare, with his own hands. Only afterwards did the evil in her subside and she reverted to human form; Rick gathered her into his arms one last time, and she weakly sputtered, "Thank you" -- then faded to nothing.
Rick splattered whatever monster he could find from the heart of the house out onto the wooded grounds; whatever unholy force had sustained the mansion was expelled, the house burned to the ground, and the Terror Mask fell from Rick's face. But his victory, and his survival, were hollow. This is where any other story in this vein would probably end: The cliché of "evil defeated, but at what cost?" And that was the end for Rick, too... until three months later, when after suffering terrible flashbacks, the Terror Mask spoke to him.
The mask told Rick that the secret of resurrection had been among Dr. West's body of occult research, and that it could still be found in his second home. So Rick donned the mask once again and sought out the path to the other house, hidden away on a lake. There he found more evidence of West's mad science: Ghouls floating in vats, as well as the Doctor himself, who had survived in a ghastly undead form. But Rick had long since abandoned his fascination with the old man, nor was he interested in revenge. He had only one reason for coming here: to rescue Jennifer.
In the deepest sanctum of the mansion, resembling a temple from millennia past, Rick followed the directions in West's notes; uttering the names of ancient gods, a portal to the land of the dead was thrown open. Jennifer's apparition rose to his beckoning, and in a tender moment, tears might have welled within the eye holes of the mask. But the reunion was short-lived, for Rick watched in horror as a multitude of red, grasping hands dragged Jennifer screaming back amongst the damned. Not about to suffer the same loss twice, he followed them into that cold, dark dimension and fought for the salvation of Jennifer's soul. The two of them escaped to the living world and departed from the house, which sank beneath the lake forever. Rick had succeeded: against the grimmest of odds and the very laws of life and death, he'd taken back his love from a fate she never deserved.
The mask warned Rick that there would be consequences to removing the seal between this world and the void. Indeed, after settling down with Jennifer, he had to prevent both his wife and son, David, from becoming vessels for the Evil One, a god-like being who had chased the couple through the void five years earlier. And everything, of course, turned out to be orchestrated by the Terror Mask, who wanted to gain the Evil One's power for itself all along. Again, though, Rick overcame every threat to his family without so much as a moment of hesitation or care for his own safety.
This is Rick's true defining trait: He makes "till death do we part" sound noncommittal. He might look like an ugly lump of muscle, but from cutting a swath of gore through insanity-inducing beasts to throwing himself into the pits of Hell itself, there are no limits to the lengths he'll go—not for bloodlust, but for love.