This year’s New York Asian Film Festival kicks off tomorrow night with Vulgaria, and the opening night continues with one of this year’s retro titles, The Boxer’s Omen, a decline-era (1983) Shaw Brothers curio.
The Boxer’s Omen is grade-A freakout material, one of the weirdest and most viscerally bizarre examples of the supernatural Hong Kong-exported grindhouse fare that John Carpenter and W.D. Richter riffed on in Big Trouble in Little China. Within the film’s first 20 minutes, you will see human body parts engorge and explode in ways that you never thought possible. The film’s schlocky, go-for-broke gross-out battle between good and evil magicians is just as revolting and memorably jarring each time you rewatch it and is guaranteed to make you gape in awe at the filmmakers’ monumental tastelessness.
To be fair, there is some basic exposition in the film’s first few minutes, in which the brother of a brutally beaten Hong Kong boxer journeys to a Thai monastery and is enlisted in an epic battle against the most emotive black magician ever committed to film. But just in those first 20 minutes, you will also see a man vomit up a bat after his skin bubbles with cartoon-sized pustules. And then you will see that same bat puppet impaled by a Thai priest with a gleaming metal stake. And then you’ll see that puppet’s “skin” melt and turn into a skeleton. And then a black magician wearing a bat mask takes a big bite out of a living rat and spits up blood on a fetish of the aforementioned bat skeleton. And then the skeleton starts moving after a second mouthful of rat blood is spat on it. And that’s to say nothing of the Lovecraftian horrors of the film’s never-ending finale, in which ectoplasmic discharge and giant flagellae from beyond smother pretty much everything. Seeing this movie with a midnight movie audience is guaranteed to put hair on your chest, especially if you’re a woman.