Hong Kong, 1983
105 minutes, in Cantonese with English subtitles
Directed by: Kuei Chih-hung
Starring: Philip Ko, Elvis Tsui, Wai Ka-man, Wang Lung-wei, Bolo Yeung
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Friday, June 29 @ MIDNIGHT!!!!!! (buy tickets)
Shot in the Eighties when Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers studios were desperately trying to hold onto their market share by bringing in young directors with wild ideas, BOXER’S OMEN is unlike anything you have ever seen before. Western horror flicks were huge in the early Eighties, but most Hong Kong horror came with a hearty helping of comic relief. Shaw decided to compete by making their horror laughter-free. Their offices in Malaysia and Singapore had gotten a whiff of Southeast Asian black magic and in 1975, director Ho Meng-hua took folk magic, true crime stories, and a dose of xenophobia and stirred it into a chunky porridge called Black Magic, involving a buffet of atrocities.
Shaw’s neglected master craftsman, Kuei Chih-hung, had spent the Seventies making movies like Bamboo House of Dolls and Killer Snakes but in the Eighties he took Ho Meng-hua’s brand of horror and made an unforgettable series of films climaxing with BOXER’S OMEN, which is nothing more than a 90 minute freak-out that looks like the last ten minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey if you replaced the flashing colors and swirling stars with writhing maggots and bright green pus. And then you made your actors eat it.
Stalwart kung fu lead, Philip Ko travels to Thailand after muscle-bound martial monster, Bolo Yeung (Enter the Dragon), kills his brother during a kickboxing match. Ko enlists a Buddhist monk to help him get revenge, but finds out that his fate is entangled with the fate of another monk who, in trying to achieve immortality, lost a battle with an evil wizard and now…whatever. Because the main attraction here is the non-stop, eternally escalating black magic battles that make up nearly 75% of the running time: armies of animated alligator skulls, squadrons of blood-sucking bat puppets, heads that fly off and attack with their dangling entrails, a hurricane of surreal optical effects, bizarre make-up, giant neon-lit sets, outlandish ideas, and non-sequitir plot twists that will make your head spin around so fast it bursts into flames. We make a lot of crazy claims about a lot of our movies, but BOXER’S OMEN delivers. See it on the big screen and you can tell your grandchildren exactly where you were when your mind was blown.