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Friday, November 20, 2015

The Boxer's Omen


The Boxer’s Omen (aka Mo)
1983
Chin Hung Kuei

Chang Hung (Philip Ko) watches in horror as his brother is crippled during a kickboxing bout. After a series of portentous visions, Chang heads to Thailand to challenge the man who hurt his brother. Along the way, he is drawn to a Buddhist temple. Here he learns that a man who was his twin brother in a past life has been poisoned and killed by an evil magician. If the man’s body decays, Chang Hung will die too. His only choice is to train in the ways of the monks and confront the black magician, but this is easier said than done.

The Boxer’s Omen is all about pushing boundaries with an assault of images that can only be described as a psychedelic gross-out. The film opens with some very well choreographed action, so good, you might even momentarily forget you’re not watching a kickboxing movie. It doesn’t take long for the first bit of weirdness to start invading the film. There’s nothing subtle about the supernatural here, it’s a gaudy explosive force when used by both good and evil. While the magic of the monks tends to involve rainbow explosions of light and glitter, the dark magics are visceral and filled with blood, slime, and often real entrails.

Sure, he's evil and all, but he's obviously having the time of his life.
I’m not sure how much of it is a culture gap and how much of it is just The Boxer’s Omen being weird, but the entire film is packed with startling imagery, from the monks chanting glowing words onto Chang’s body, to the evil wizard’s head coming loose from his body to attack. Once the film gets up to speed, barely a moment goes by without something dynamic happening on screen. The Boxer’s Omen opens with an air of deliberate mystery, the answers offered make little sense, and much like Chang, the viewer is simply left to accept what is happening in front of them. This has the curious ability to turn the mystery into a sort of surreal unease that continues all the way until the closing credits.

The set design and cinematography are often stunning. One of the most impressive sets is an ancient temple that contains a massive Buddha face with a tree growing from one eye. The special effects are a mixed bag, from nauseatingly real grue to decidedly ropey creature designs. In most films, this variation in quality would be a hindrance, but tossed into the madness of The Boxer’s Omen, it only heightens the unreal nature of it all. It should be noted, the movie doesn’t shy away from using actual guts, dead chickens and people eating other people’s vomit. So even the hardiest horror viewer might take some pause with this one.

Here come the mummies!
I can’t say enough good things about this film, it’s hallucinatory horror at it’s best, the Holy Mountain (1973) of evil wizard movies. The Boxer’s Omen never misses an opportunity to revolt the viewer, and it does so with a slimy glee. Don’t expect things to make a whole lot of sense, but then again nightmares rarely do.


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