Prolific, and often under-appreciated Hong Kong director Herman Yau returns to the category III rated horror of “The Untold Story” and “Ebola Syndrome” with “The Second Coming”, dealing with possession, murder and dark secrets from the past. A joint Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore production, the film was co-directed and scripted by Ng Tin-chi, and stars Kenny Wong (recently in “Firestorm”), TVB and Milkyway veteran Maggie Shiu, Don Li (“The Haunted School”) and young Singaporean actress Joey Leong (also in the excellent “Blood Ties”). For a modestly budgeted genre outing the film performed surprisingly well at the international box office and on the festival circuit, and has been picked up for release in a variety of countries, its popularity perhaps having been boosted by being shot in 3D.
Kenny Wong and Maggie Shiu play former migrant worker couple Ming and Jen, who have made good with their lives and who now lead a comfortable, quiet existence with their 13-year-old daughter Lucy. Everything changes on Lucy’s 14th birthday, when her personality seems to change overnight and she starts to act in a strange and threatening manner. With 20 year old son Sunny (Don Li) returning from studying medicine overseas, the family tries to pull together and to get to the bottom of her increasingly troubling behaviour, forcing them to face up to an unpleasant and long-hidden skeleton in the closet.
Herman Yau is an experienced hand when it comes to horror, and “The Second Coming” is in many ways a welcome throwback to the genre as it was in Hong Kong back in the 1990s. While not as nasty as some of his earlier works, the film has its share of gruesome moments, just about enough to earn its category III rating and to please fans looking for something a little more full-blooded than most other recent outings of its kind from HK. Marred slightly by some obvious CGI work, the film manages several creepy scenes and a handful of respectable jump scares, making it good value for money and ensuring that it entertains throughout. As with pretty much all of Yau’s films, it’s well-paced and tightly edited, and scores highly on a technical level, with some atmospheric visuals and a generally grounded look that nicely contrasts and works well with its supernatural elements.
Whatever genre he works in Yau has always shown himself to be a good storyteller, something particularly valuable and often missing in horror, and he and Ng Tin-chi manage to make the most of the script, working in some social conscience drama and solid character work. Dealing with themes of economic pressure, the family unit and gender roles, the film does have at least a little heart and intelligence, and along with some above average performances from the cast, this gives the material a definite lift. This is just as well, as it distracts from the fact that the script isn’t quite so successful when it comes to the actual plot, which never really hangs together and does tend to get caught up in flashbacks and exposition. By clearly building from the start towards an obvious revelation the film lacks tension and relies a bit too heavily on manipulative plot devices, resulting in a conclusion that’s only half-satisfying.
Still, for a horror film of modest ambitions, this isn’t really a deal breaker, and without wishing to damn with faint praise, “The Second Coming” is one of the better Hong Kong genre flicks of the last year or so. Anything from Herman Yau is worth watching, and there’s enough here to make for an enjoyable and efficient hour and a half of shocks and shudders.
Herman Yau (director)/Ng Tin Chi (writer)
CAST: Maggie Siu
Tak-Bun Wong … Ming
Yat Long Don Li