Imagine, if you will, a movie with the termenity to steal large chunks of Halloween while also taking most of its soundtrack — and some ideas — from The Omen and The Exorcist. Then you’d have Jing hun feng yu ye, or as we would say in America, Devil Returns.
It is as amazingly ridiculous as you’d hope it would be.
Our heroine Mei-hsun Fang called for the wrong cab. Its driver is a wanted robber and serial rapist who attacks her and leaves her to die. But she survives and her testimony puts him in front of a firing squad. Even though she can see his death in her dreams, he hasn’t left her memory and she begins to fear that the life growing in her womb isn’t from her husband, but from that killing machine.
Her attempt to have an abortion ends with the nurse attacked and the doctor being violently hurled from the operating room and out a window. By violently, I mean that this is a Hong Kong movie where life is cheap and stunts are painfully real.
What would you do now? Throw yourself down a flight of stairs? How about throwing yourself down the stairs accompanied by Jean Michel Jarre’s “Oxygene?” Could it be because the second part of that song was also used in Jackie Chan’s Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow?
Well, that doesn’t work either and the baby is born. Mei-hsun is so fearful of the child that she refuses to name it. And when no one is around, the baby torments her, crying non-stop. Luckily, an exorcism turns the child to the side of good.
The killer is enraged that his son is no longer evil, so he returns back to the world of the living, wiping out everyone in his path, from the nanny who suggested the exorcism to a young couple.
Finally, the movie settles into straight-up Halloween ripoff mode, except you know, with the Asian twist of the murderer being covered in wine to banish his evil spirit before he’s shot several times.
This movie plays with the issue of motherhood and the changing role of women within Chinese culture pretty well until it decides that someone needed to see an Asian version of Jamie Lee stab those knitting needles into the eyes of a killer all over again.
Of course, this is also a movie that takes large bits of its story from When a Stranger Calls and Black Christmas, so you can’t fault it from stealing as much as it can.
However — can these movies claim to have a scene shot in a karaoke parlor where the singer outright brutalizes every single man in the club with her lyrics that take down each one of them as they try to laugh it off? Nope. They cannot. It’s moments like this that make this movie shine.
As you watch this clip, you may notice that my copy of Devil Returns isn’t a high-end boutique blu ray release. No, it’s a shoddy VCD downloaded off the internet, featuring hardcoded Asian and Chinese subtitles, while each line of dialogue is spoken in both Cantonese and Mandarin. The strange feedback from all of this information overload makes this movie somehow even better as a result. It’s also a grainy mess, transferred from VHS to a CD-R, with no care whatsoever for quality. Magical.