|While this game is not very time consuming or difficult to complete, it is possible to miss approximately half of what there is to see if gameplay is rushed. If you do not notice everything mentioned here, you will soon discover that Phantasmagoria does contain a fair degree of replay value. Assuming the player makes all the right choices and carefully examines and periodically reexamines each game location, the tragic, detailed storyline should progress roughly as follows...|
Soon after moving into her new home, Adrienne wakes up screaming after having had a nightmare where she was manacled to a chair to which an enormous swinging blade was attached and making its way slowly downwards to potentially slice her head open. Don, her husband, tenderly comforts his wife and they make love.
Later, after sunrise, Don states that he will be renovating the second floor bathroom to turn it into a darkroom while Adrienne declares her intention to explore the house and grounds. They affectionately remember the Christmas Eve Don proposed marriage when Adrienne unpacks a Christmas ornament in the shape of a snowman. Adrienne wanders around the house, having another nightmare, this time involving a bed filled with grasping decayed hands, when she enters the bedroom of the house's previous owner, a world renowned stage magician by the name of Zoltan "Carno" Carnovasch. She engages in small talk with Don as he goes about his work and eventually discovers a locked door at the end of a hallway leading off the reception hall. To obtain the key, she drives to town in the young couple's BMW and argues with the patronising real estate agent who sold them the property until he hands it over. Back at the house, the key allows Adrienne to open the locked door and enter a small library. By accident, she dislodges a brick at the back of the room's disused fireplace and reveals a bricked up entrance to a hidden chapel. After using a nearby letter opener disguised as a figurine to displace the mortar between the remaining bricks, Adrienne is able to crawl inside. Removing a Bible placed on top of a small wooden box on the altar, she unwittingly releases a demon clumsily contained within a spellbook held by that box. The demon, in the form of green mist, races up to the darkroom where Don is working and causes an overhead lamp to fall and injure the hapless photographer's head. From that moment, Don is unwillingly possessed and his existing likable personality degenerates fairly rapidly to irritable, aggressive, and finally psychopathic.
The following morning, Don, in a belligerent mood, implicitly orders Adrienne to go to town and buy some drain cleaner so he can fix a clogged sink in the darkroom. Adrienne, confused and hurt by her husband's sudden personality change, does as he asks but finds from that moment on that Don will no longer relate to her in a loving or even civilised way. The darkroom door remains locked and Don's activities secret until the end of the adventure. When he makes his brief appearances, he often acts as if he were drunk - indeed a bottle of the potent drink absinthe located behind the bar is gradually drained of its contents. Even worse, Don treacherously rapes his wife as she is brushing her hair in the bathroom one morning, and apparently drowns her cat and smashes her laptop computer on which she was starting a new book. It becomes clear that his problems stem from a source far more powerful than a mere bump on the head or the effects of overwork in an unventilated darkroom environment.
As the story continues, Adrienne learns more of the history of Carno and his family. The magician was intrigued by the black arts and had five wives, most of whom either died or disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Adrienne finds out the truth, however, as phantom scenes of each wife's final moments remain throughout the house and grounds. All were murdered by Carno via various gruesome methods after he was possessed by a demon he summoned but could not control (the same creature currently inhabiting Don). His last wife, Marie, suspecting the horrible truth behind the demise of her predecessors, plotted with her lover, Gaston, a stage hand, to ensure Carno could not escape from one of his more dangerous magic acts. Unfortunately for them, their plan failed and both were sadistically slain by an enraged Carno who was himself killed in the process.
Besides witnessing these numerous ghastly events, Adrienne befriends some of the local residents. Chief among these are Harriet and her "more brawn than brains" son Cyrus, both vagrants, who have made camp in the mansion's carriage house. Harriet is a clairvoyant and medium who senses that all is not right at the Carnovasch estate. She holds a tarot card reading session for Adrienne that foreshadows the horrors to come, and conducts a seance at which time the spirit of Carno himself appears to instruct Adrienne on how to begin to fight the evil he unleashed on the world so many decades ago. Cyrus is apparently the comic relief, but he proves his worth by pushing down a tree so that Adrienne can explore previously unreachable portions of the grounds. Both are quickly employed as helpers around the estate. Lastly, there is Malcolm, a wise one hundred and ten year old recluse who lived with Carno as a boy and is aware of the demon problem. He eagerly informs Adrienne of the details of Carno's last days and how to banish the evil once and for all.
The final confrontation between Adrienne and her demon possessed husband takes place shortly after she ventures into his darkroom after finding the door open for the first time in several days. She spots an amorphous collection of photographs of herself plastered over one of the walls. To Adrienne's horror, every picture has been cut in two - one half with her head and the other with the rest of her body. Suddenly, Don appears behind her, dressed in an old cape belonging to Carno and giggling in a deranged voice that "the body of a woman is a wonderful thing, but the head is useless!" He grabs her and they both struggle until Adrienne throws the contents of the nearby bottle of drain cleaner (sulfuric acid) in Don's face before running out the door while her husband screams in pain. They meet again in the nursery at which point they resume their struggle during which Adrienne stabs Don with a glass shard found lying on the floor beneath a shattered picture frame. The chase continues throughout the house, including its numerous secret passageways, until Adrienne returns to the darkroom and picks up the spellbook from which the demon had earlier been freed which happens to be lying on a table. At this point, she is captured and Don strangles her into unconsciousness.
When Adrienne awakes, she is being manacled to the chair of death from her first nightmare by her husband who is still ranting and cackling evilly. She shows him the snowman Christmas ornament to see if that will bring him to his senses, but when it does not appear to work, her self preservation instinct ignites and she pulls the lever that brings down the swinging blade, hoping Don will not notice it until it is too late. Her calculated move is successful and the blade slashes through her husband's torso, leaving Adrienne physically unharmed. Regretting her actions almost immediately, she frees herself and cries and sobs over Don's still body. There is little time for sorrow, however, as the possessing demon reveals itself in all its infernal majesty and chases the woman who has put a temporary end to its "amusements" with mortals. Thinking quickly, Adrienne races to the summoning chamber from which Carno had conjured the demon, bars the door, and begins to recite the spell of permanent banishment pointed out to her by Malcolm. All this time, the demon pounds on the door until it finally breaks into the room just as Adrienne is concluding the incantation. The demon is banished back into the place from whence it came amidst a whirlpool of magical energy and Adrienne walks slowly and silently from the house, leaving with nothing but the clothes on her back. Her emotionless expression is that of a person who has been severely traumatised. A victory of sorts has been achieved, but it is a hollow one.
Title - Introduction - Gameplay - Sound and Visual Effects - Main Characters - Censorship Issues - Miscellanea
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© Anthony Larme 1998