About halfway through Kuei Chih-Hung’s 1983 fever dream The Boxer’s Omen, an evil wizard eats a bunch of animal guts, pukes them up, eats the gut-puke again then spits it out and uses the mess to cast an evil spell.
After reading that, you may have a better idea of whether you should see The Boxer’s Omen. If that scene sounds awful and repellent, I don’t blame you. But, if it sounds insane and goofy, you’re probably in the target audience for the film.
The Hong Kong horror film was produced by the Shaw Brothers, who are arguably the biggest name in Hong Kong film history. Shaw Brothers Studio produced over 1,000 films from the 1950s to the 1980s. The majority of them are very good martial arts flicks, but The Boxer’s Omen was part of a small subgenre of gross-out horror films to come from the company over the course of a few years—other films in this area include the loosely connected 1981 film Bewitched and the 1983 Seeding of a Ghost, which involves exactly as much necrophilia as you may expect from the title.
The plot of The Boxer’s Omen exists, I guess. Though it feels like two scripts got mashed together at once. Our hero is a boxer whose brother, also a boxer, gets horribly crippled in a bout with a Thai fighter. How badly does he get injured, you ask? Well, the doctors explain to the protagonist that his “neck ribs” are shattered, which is probably pretty bad. Anyway, the brother whose neck ribs are still intact goes to Thailand to seek revenge and is almost immediately recruited by an order of Buddhist monks to help them fight an order of evil black magic-practicing wizards.
The previous plot point with the evil Thai guy, seemingly forgotten, is picked up again in a later scene, but it ultimately has zero importance to the plot except as an excuse for the protagonist to go to Thailand.
Once the evil wizards appear, they completely take over as the movie spends painfully long stretches of time showing their rituals and spells in excruciating detail. This is where the vomit eating and stuff comes in, making it one of those films where you should win a t-shirt if you can watch it all the way through without puking yourself. I had seen it years ago, so I was slightly more prepared for the showing at the Hollywood Theatre than if I had gone in blind, but I can’t say I didn’t dry heave during some scenes.
The biggest set piece of the film is a magic battle where our hero, now a monk in training, must face off against one of the magicians in a one-on-one duel. The evil wizard spends a minute or two casting a gross spell and our hero counters it, casts his own spell and they go back and forth like that for some time. Crocodile skulls come to life, two separate flying severed heads come into play, the aforementioned vomit eating occurs and the fakest bats you have ever seen in a movie are summoned.
The final act of the movie goes slightly less hard on the gross-out magic in favor of a trip to Tibet to steal some magic ashes, but it’s all highly entertaining—again, assuming you think any of the stuff I’ve described sounds entertaining. The special effects range from upsettingly real to comically fake, and it lends even more anarchic spirit to a film that’s already incredibly unpredictable. If you’re a fan of nutso horror or the weirder side of the Hong Kong golden age, I can’t recommend this movie enough. To more sane viewers with weaker stomachs, I cannot tell you more to stay away.