The Boxer’s Omen starts with a boxing match, sure enough, an MMA style bout between a Chinese boxer and a Thai, played by Bolo Yeung. Predictably, Bolo cheats, breaking the neck of his opponent with a cheap attack. This leads his brother Chan (Philip Ko) on the road to vengeance, but first he has to be rescued from a gang of thugs (who I guess were also Thai?) by a ghostly Abbot, who then proceeds to haunt Chan until he goes to Thailand to challenge Bolo to another bout. This trip also, nearly by accident, takes Chan to the Abbot’s temple, where he finds out that he is involved in a much weirder movie than he originally thought.
The Abbot, you see, is now deceased after a battle with a black magician. This battle includes massive exploding sores, driving a magic dagger through the heart of an evil bat puppet, the skeleton of that bat puppet trying to walk out of the temple, and the black magician creating some fuzzy spider puppets so he can crawl up the ceiling of the monk’s bedroom and drop the spiders on him, so they can drive poisonous needles into his eyes, killing him.
Whew. Is that weird enough for you? How about the fact that Thai magicians keep pots of disgusting things around to eat and then spit up, creating nasty potions? And they have the most amazing decor for their warehouses full of nauseating things in jars?
If not, trust me, this movie gets weirder.
Chan and the monk were brothers in a previous life, it seems, and now their fates are linked; once the Abbot’s body decomposes, Chan will die. So Chan becomes a monk and trains up for a battle with the black magician, all in the space of three months (cuz he still needs to make it back to HK to fight Bolo).
The battle is a tough (and weird) one, full of bat puppets, animated crocodile skulls, and the black magician ultimately pulling his own head off to attack Chan, Penanggalan-style. It looks bad for Chan until the sun comes up, so burn, black magician, burn!
Well, that’s taken care of, so Chan goes back to HK and immediately breaks monk protocol by sleeping with his girlfriend. Meantime, the black magician’s disciples are doing all sorts of disgusting things, like sewing up his corpse in a crocodile carcass and chewing each other’s spit-up to resurrect him as a super-naked woman with metal nails, which also resurrects the golden needle curse just in time to rob Chan of his eyesight during his match.
Chan doubles down on his screwing up by lying about his falling off the sex wagon, robbing himself of his monkish powers and necessitating a trip to Kathmandu to find the holy ashes of his Abbot brother from yet another former life. This leads to one of the most delirious, demented magical fights ever put on screen, and it’s almost all practical effects. The final assault by the three disciples is now very high on my list of “Oh-What-The-Living-Hell?” moments in cinema.
The Boxer’s Omen was a response by Shaw Brothers to a bunch of smaller studios eating into their market share with tales of extreme horror. It’s best to leave your gag reflex at home while watching this, and don’t even think about absently enjoying a snack while watching. I’m still amused by the prospect of Thailand being the Transylvania of HK movies, but this movie’s dependence on evil wizards running everything through their salivary glands prior to use is going to be a bridge too far for some viewers. The movie’s also about ten minutes too long, but it’s a really crowded hour and forty minutes, and there’s not that much fat that could be trimmed.
Here, have some weirdness, including the fact that whenever the black magician appears, he always plays the audio for the last five seconds of Phantasm.
Oh, all right. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
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