Satan Returns (1996)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2005-07-28
Summary: Donnie and Chingmy and Satan.
This review is based on a Fortune DVD release which has been retitled “Shaolin vs. the Devil’s Omen”. Since the movie has nothing to do with Shaolin, it must be a lame attempt at marketing. It has the deplorable subtitles noted in both reviews.

“666 Satan Returns” is a decent supernatural thriller with a few actually scary moments, a not unexpected but still effective twist ending and long scenes of real suspense. As noted in an earlier review, it also has one of the most annoying comic relief characters ever committed to film—in Hong Kong or anywhere else. Wong Chi-Wah as Ka Ming was dreadful. Eliminating him from every scene he is in would substantially improve the movie. His character is boring and unbelievable—Donnie Yen as tough cop Mo Ti Nam would have pistol whipped Ming as soon as he opened his mouth.

The reason to see this movie is the undeniable star power of the leading players. Donnie Yen is excellent, playing a cop who is buttoned a bit too tight and who blows up occasionally, laying waste to suspects, witnesses and bystanders. His character is always dressed in a suit and is almost always wearing his horn-rimmed glasses, even when punching Satan’s representative. A very well done portrait of (almost) controlled fury.

Chimgmay Yau plays Shou-Ching Chan a policewoman who is investigating Officer Mo, but who gets drafted onto the very small task force investigating gruesome assaults against women—they have been crucified and their hearts cut out. Ching is an excellent addition to the investigation—she is a Christian and the other cops (Buddhists, perhaps?) are completely unfamiliar with Satan, although they have deduced that Satan is the being behind the killings.

Here “666 Satan Returns” brings up an interesting theological and ontological question—can a supernatural being exist if most of the people who might be affected by it have no concept of it even existing? The answer the movie gives is yes—Satan has an existence independent of the thoughts of believers, since he attacks, seduces and even kills non-Christians. This isn’t explored at all, since it is a movie, not a religious or psychological text. Besides, both vampires and zombies make very brief and gratuitous appearances in the last couple of scenes so there are plenty of non-human beings for every taste.

Ching is the daughter of a failed cleric—apparently a Catholic priest who fled to Rome and died of AIDS. According to Judas, the Devil’s minion who has come to prepare the way for him, she is actually the daughter of Satan himself and will, at the appropriate time—6:00PM on 6/6/69—will rule the world. Judas is beautifully played by Francis Ng. this character has a lot of the energy in the film—as the emissary from Hell, he would have to be both attractive and evil.

Chingmy Yau is perfect for his role—she is gorgeous, of course, and there are plenty of close-ups that frame her face. Her mouth is the best of many wonderful features, with her full, pouty lower lip, perfect overbite and double bow shaped upper lip. One indication that she the Evil One is gaining some control over her is that she puts on bright red lipstick. It is clear that everyone involved in this movie knows just where Chingmy’s strengths lie. She is able to act shocked and a bit dazed through most of her role, a set of reactions that her lovely face is perfect for.

The very attractive Ivy Leung Si Man plays Leon, a police officer seconded to the task force. Leon has the thankless task of being a decoy/target/ for Judas, which is not a good assignment for someone who wants to collect her pension.

The cinematography is odd and derivative. Heavy use of filters, so entire scenes have a green or blue tint early on, with red showing up toward the end. Almost all of it is shot through filters that give the images an indistinct appearance, which does not add to the suspense in the least. It is almost as annoying as the subtitles—but one (at least this one) can ignore some of the very real shortcomings and concentrate on the film’s strengths—Donnie Yen and Chingmy Yau both doing what they do best, a decent plot and two quite shocking scenes.

Reviewer Score: 5