Thursday, May 17, 2012

Devil Returns (1982)

... aka: 驚魂風雨夜

Directed by:
Richard Chen

A robber and rapist is on the loose. School teacher Mei-hsun Fang (Emily Cheung) has the misfortune of getting a taxi ride from the creep, who ends up chasing her into an abandoned building and bashes her head against the ground until she's a bloody mess (and presumably rapes her off-screen). Almost killed in the incident, Mei-hsun is rushed off to the hospital to recooperate. After recovering, she identifies her attacker in a police line-up and he's executed. Mei-hsun marries her engineer boyfirend Yu-ching Lo (Alan Tam) and plans to settle in to a comfortable upper middle class life. Well, not quite. Mei-hsun is haunted by images of her attacker and can't seem to get him out of her mind. Her shrink says she's neurotic and has a persecution complex. Mei-hsun also discovers she's pregnant and knows she's not ready for it. When her doctor refuses to abort it without her husband's consent, Mei-hsun is forced to go to a sleazy abortionist who only accepts cash. Before the operation can commence, the nurse becomes possessed, slashes at the doctor with a scalpel and some kind of supernatural force throws him out of the window. Mei-hsun flees in terror.

Accepting the baby growing inside of her, Mei-hsun continues on with her pregnancy, frequently telling her still-not-yet born baby she hates it and knows its going to be evil. In a last ditch effort to terminate the pregnancy, she throws herself down a flight of stairs. Instead of miscarrying, the baby is born a month premature. A month passes and the baby starts behaving strangely. It sleeps and eats all day, but stays up all night crying. OK, so maybe that's not all that strange... But how many 6 month olds are able to crawl and can climb in and out of its crib with ease. The baby even leaves a rag doll on the stairs to try to trip up the father. Hardly anyone believes Mei-hsun when she claims something is seriously wrong, including her husband, who is out of town working most of the time. Mei-hsun is finally able to break through to her superstitious nanny Mrs. Chou (Ou-Yang Sha Fei) and the two take the baby to a temple so some monks can perform an exorcism. Stuff flies around the room, but nothing really seems to change much.

The premise deals with post traumatic stress and post partum depression, the fears of a first time mother that she won't be able to connect with her child and other female / mother centered issues in an insightful and interesting way... for the first hour. And then something unfortunate happens: during the final 30 minutes the evil baby angle is dropped completely, a mysterious psycho killer is introduced and it suddenly becomes a complete rip-off of HALLOWEEN (1978)! And by complete rip-off, I mean complete rip-off. How does it copy John Carpenter's classic? Let me count the ways. For starters, the film steals snippets of the famous score and the killer is seen mostly in shadow or from a distance. Remember the closet scene where Jamie Lee Curtis jabs a clothes hanger into Michael's eye after he busts in through the door? Yep, that's here. Remember when Michael slowly rises behind JLC when he should be dead? Yep, that's here, too. Remember JLC banging on the door for a child to let her in as Michael slowly approaches? Check! Or Michael hiding in the back seat of a car to surprise someone with a knife? Yup. Or Michael strangling JLC when Donald Pleasance shows up and shoots him? Uh huh. If that's not enough, the female is dressed identically to JLC with the light blue blouse (which also gets ripped on the shoulder!) and dark blue pants!

I was reminded of another Hong Kong film called BREAKOUT FROM OPPRESSION while marveling at this ending. Breakout (which is erroneously listed as being from 1978 everywhere online but is obviously from the early 80s) is what some refer to as a 'psycho bitch' movie. Those movies usually center around a nutty female who goes out of her way to make a man's life a living hell after she's been scorned or her love isn't reciprorated. Think PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971) or FATAL ATTRACTION (1987). Breakout went that route before suddenly ripping off the ending of FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980). But at least in that film's defense, the ripping off came in the final five minutes and is at least worked into the storyline. In this film it is abrupt, random and basically ruins what had come before it. A twist at the very end tries to justify it all, but I wasn't buying it. Aside from the Halloween, you'll notice one moment clearly lifted from THE OMEN and the entire soundtrack was stolen from other films, including the use of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" from THE EXORCIST.

All that said, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that this movie had me intrigued the entire time for one reason or another. The first hour is very solid, the acting is good and the film effectively builds suspense throughout. I was even enjoying the slasher-style scenes before noticing they were more than just influenced by HALLOWEEN, but complete ripped off from that film (which didn't become completely obvious to me until the last 10 minutes or so). Hell, in a strange way, I enjoyed this more than most of Halloween's official sequels. There's also a clip from HORROR EXPRESS seen on a TV set and a nightclub act where the female singer belittles an ex-boyfriend in song ("You're just a little centipede ... I'd rather marry a dog than you.")

There is next to no information about Devil Returns anywhere online (including no IMDb listing as of this writing) but I can see why it didn't receive much of a release here in the States (*cough* plagiarism *cough* copyright *cough*). A VCD was however sold through Ocean Shores for a short time. The cast also includes Don Wong Tao as a detective and Joan Lin Feng Chiao, who is married to superstar Jackie Chan and has a topless scene here.



Anonymous said...

I found out about this film through this blog, and made an IMDB page for it: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3056098/

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Ah cool; nice this finally has a proper page on there! I used to do them for IMDb but so many have been rejected I stopped doing it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...