From Richard Chen's busy year of 1982 in Taiwan cinema where he aside from Devil Returns directed the Ms.45 remake Girl With A Gun (IFD re-title Fury In Red), The Anger (IFD re-edit Inferno Thunderbolt) and Kill For Love (IFD re-edit Official Exterminator - Kill For Love), Devil Returns sees the blender filled up with distinct influences from The Omen, Rosemary's Baby and Halloween. As successful as Chen is in channeling these horror classics and horror genre stapes, for the sake of clarity the Halloween angle should've been left alone.
After being attacked by a murderer the police is pursuing, Mei Hsun (Joan Lin) begins her road back to recovery with husband Yu Ching (Alan Tam). Being startled quite easily and having nightmare visions, after a physical it turns out Mei Hsun is pregnant but she senses something is wrong... that something evil is growing in her.
Setting the atmosphere with Jean Michel Jarre's 'Oxygene Pt 2' (as also used in Snake In The Eagle's Shadow), despite being many things, Devil Returns doesn't hold back and the one reel serial killer scenario is captivating despite Chen really openly using tools that are not his. Rain, thunderstorm, a women being pursued by an unseen killer, what makes us unsettled is how Chen ultimately lingers on the attack on the bottom floor of a building where the ground is damp (it looks like the setting of the rape scene in Deadly Darling) as Mei Hsu's head is continually bashed in the ground. Miraculously surviving this though, one sloppy aspect of Chen's transition to Joan Lin's and Alan Tam's life in the aftermath is that it seems like a flashback partly but ultimately the story is driving forward and the little devil in Mei Hsun is growing.
Working off shrill sound design and loud noises for fake scares and effect in general, Chen is competently building up the notion of dread and evil as there is something affecting Mei Hsun, the environment and household accidents leading to blood being spilt. Not sure about Alan Tam's odd and sometimes mildly freaky behaviour having something to do with the evil looming, Chen goes from more subtle dread to the almost full on possession, gore sequence at the abortion clinic but fails at even mention the logical, legal aftermath of it. Devil Returns is therefore a movie where you'll have to swallow some gaps, some all too evident horror clichés (such as the couple's house being dark at all times almost and characters walking out in the dark alone). It's easy to swallow AND criticize because Richard Chen is genuinely channeling other horror movies and their nailed atmospheres. Especially claustrophobia becomes evident as we spend very little time with other characters other than our main ones and most is set in one house.
A bravura exorcism sequence and the movie full on copying Halloween in the latter stages, as good as Chen's copying/homage is, it makes the final explanation of what was going on in reel one leading to the final one way too unclear and it's evident Chen was trying to serve up a way too full plate. But extracting what was really tasty is not hard and Devil Returns is a creepy ride by the hungry filmmakers of the early 80s Taiwan new wave.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson