Satan Returns (1996)

Judas, an envoy of Satan, prepares to remove a victim's heart
Judas, an envoy of Satan, prepares to remove a victim’s heart

Officer Ching (Chingmy Yau), who works for the police complaints division, is investigating Nam (Donnie Yen) to decide if he is mentally fit to carry out his police duties, but she is asked to team-up with Nam instead, to help investigate a serial killer case.

Donnie Yen needed to be in more of this!
Donnie Yen needed to be in more of this!

This murderer is not just some typical killer, however. He is called Judas (played in a full-on fashion by Francis Ng), he’s an envoy of Satan and he’s trying to track down the Devil’s Daughter, who he claims is a woman born at 6 am on 6th June, 1969. To test if a woman is, indeed, the devil’s offspring, Judas ties his female victims to a cross and surgically removes their hearts: if one of them doesn’t die after this procedure she will be proven to be the true one. Though most of what happens is merely suggested, we do see Judas take a bite out of his latest victim’s removed heart.

Some scenes are well enough shot
Some scenes are well enough shot

Writer Jing Wong mixes too many comedy elements into the story, mainly centred around inept cop Ka-Ming (Chi Wah Wong), who is cowardly, terrible at surveillance work and a pathetic womaniser. Wong also inserts some throwaway dialogue about the impending Chinese takeover of Hong Kong into the movie, though this isn’t really gone into. He does put a certain amount of thought into how Judas locates his victims, revealing that Judas compels a woman working at a credit card company to divulge the details of all female customers born on 6th June, 1969 but, generally, Wing fails to keep the plot coherent and focused.

During an autopsy, the latest victim is reanimated to deliver a threat
During an autopsy, the latest victim is reanimated to deliver a threat

With Ching starting to realise that she might actually be the daughter of Satan (she can compel people to hurt themselves by saying “go to hell”) and Judas continuing to madly claim that he’s doing the devil’s bidding, you expect the movie to kick up a gear and become more horror-oriented, but SATAN RETURNS remains unsure whether it’s a comedic police procedural, an action film or a supernatural story.

Donnie Yen and Chingmy Yau
Donnie Yen and Chingmy Yau

Ultimately, though director Wai-Lun Lam handles the occasional blue-lit set piece with a certain amount of verve, the film fails to be tense, funny, scary or properly exciting.

After Judas kills some cops during the finale they are brought back as zombie killers
After Judas kills some cops during the finale they are brought back as zombie killers
A zombie cop grabs his own severed foot so that he can club Ka-Ming around the head with it!
A zombie cop grabs his own severed foot so that he can club Ka-Ming around the head with it!

It doesn’t help that Donnie Yen, playing a hardboiled cop who tends to punch first and ask questions later, is underutilised as Ning. He just should have been featured in the movie more, rather than the useless and irritating Ka-Ming. Though it is a case of too little, too late, the finale does treat us to the spectacle of Ning first brandishing a chainsaw, to cut down some reanimated cop-corpses, and then using a nail gun to pin Judas to a toppled-over cross… before the villain is immolated with a Molotov cocktail!

This movie should have been better!
This movie should have been better!
Oh no: spoiler! Ching removes her own heart at the end and survives... she is the Devil's Daughter!
Oh no: spoiler! Ching removes her own heart at the end and survives… so she is the Devil’s Daughter!

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