New York Asian Film Festival 2012

Boxer’s Omen

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Boxer’s Omen
Mo | Kuei Chih-Hung, 1983
Hong Kong | 105 minutes

Shot in the 80’s 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 80’s, 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 70’s making movies like Bamboo House of Dolls and Killer Snakes, but in the 80’s 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 10 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 his brother is killed by muscle-bound martial monster, Bolo Yeung (Enter the Dragon) 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, ever-escalating black magic that makes up nearly 75% of the running time: armies of animated alligator skulls, squadrons of blood-sucking bat puppets, detachable heads that fly off and attack with their dangling spinal cords, a hurricane of surreal optical effects, bizarre make-up, giant neon-lit sets, outlandish ideas, and non sequitur plot twists that will make your head spin around. 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.

Series: New York Asian Film Festival 2012

Venue: Walter Reade Theater

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