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The 10 Greatest Shaw Brothers Horror Movies of All Time

Jul 02, 2023Jul 02, 2023

Kung fu movie purveyors Shaw Brothers Studio had a great run of horror flicks too. Here are the 10 best!

Being one of the most popular and continually profitable genres in cinema, horror films are ubiquitous across screens large and small the world over. Of all the world’s horror-making film industries, however, none can match the manic creativity and anarchic chaos of Hong Kong horror. There’s simply nothing else out there quite like it, and one of the best companies to ever make it was the venerable Shaw Brothers Studio.

World cinema fans and addicts of kung fu movies alike should be immediately familiar with Shaw Brothers Studio; they were once the biggest film production company in Hong Kong, and gave the world many of the greatest martial arts flicks ever made. From sophisticated masterworks by auteur filmmakers like King Hu and Li Han-hsiang, to sleazy B-action bliss like The Flying Guillotine, Shaw Brothers was responsible for an incredible oeuvre of kung fu classics. What some fans might not know, however, is that over the course of its 86-year run, the prolific studio also made its fair share of bonkers horror flicks. In the list below, we’ve counted down the Shaw Brothers’ greatest contributions to the wild and wacky world of Hong Kong horror.

If you’re a fan of Italian giallo flicks, you’ll definitely want to check out this bizarre Shaw Brother’s take on the formula; Corpse Mania is a colorful and atmospheric killer caper about a series of murders committed by an apparent necrophiliac killer who haunts brothels. Mixing melodrama, police procedural, and grisly slasher horror violence, Corpse Mania is an underrated Hong Kong horror treasure ripe for reappraisal as one of Shaw Brothers Studio’s best movies.

A chaotic and absurd possession horror jam that’s sure to please fans of Evil Dead and the like, Black Magic follows a group of people who become ensnared in a complicated web of deception and death spun by a dastardly magician. Rooms full of maggot-ridden corpses, parties crashed by people driven mad by love potions, and laser-filled wizard battles are just a taste of the twisted delights that await in this unhinged horror gem. If you find yourself craving more crimson-soaked goodness, its 1976 zombie-focused sequel is well worth checking out as well.

Euro-horror meets kung fu in this oddball collaboration between England-based Hammer Film Productions and Shaw Brothers Studio. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires follows Peter Cushing’s Professor Van Helsing on a trip to China, where he’s forced to do battle with a recently-reawakened team of ancient vampire swordsmen.

Co-directed by Roy Ward Baker and Chang Cheh – legends in their respective countries and fields – The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires hits a fun and intriguing (though perhaps not entirely successful) stride in its blending of martial arts with horror. In the words of Screen Rant, “In spite of the legendary performance by actor Peter Cushing, the film was heavily criticized for not being very well-thought-out. In spite of this, some have found the blending of the horror and action genres fascinating.”

The first of three flicks on this list by cult horror mastermind Kuei Chih-Hung, Bewitched is a thoroughly deranged and quite disgusting possession movie about a man who becomes – you guessed it – bewitched by an evil spirit. While under the demon’s spell, the man murders his daughter and goes on the lam from the police. Meanwhile, a benevolent monk helps the man in his quest to exorcize the spirit.

Bloody, vomitous, and directed with a great deal of style, Bewitched has all the hallmarks of great Hong Kong horror. The film was a huge box-office hit in its native Hong Kong, and has rightfully earned itself a loyal cult following in other parts of the world as well.

Related: 13 Lesser-Known Possession Horror Movies That Need More Love

A lesser-known cult classic, Hex is another one by Bewitched director Kuei Chih-Hung. It follows the basic structure of the classic French psychological thriller Les Diaboliques, but spins it in that uniquely anarchic Hong Kong fashion. Murder plots, melodramatic romance, and an extended nude exorcism dance sequence are some of the highlights of this baffling horror oddity. What’s more, the film looks absolutely gorgeous, and is drenched in colorful hues and an unnerving atmosphere.

The Oily Maniac is a wild martial arts monster movie mash-up from Ho Meng Hua, director of the aforementioned Black Magic. It tracks the exploits of a crippled man who is transformed into a rather sticky vigilante after reciting a magical incantation.

Although it's not at all straight-up horror fare – teetering quite far into sci-fi and superhero territory – the movie’s manic creativity and occasional moments of stomach-churning body horror are more than enough to earn it a spot on this list. As Shaw Brothers Universe explains, “Oily Maniac is pure exploitation fun, embracing the sheer strangeness of its concept – a man cursed to become a ferocious monster when he’s covered in oil – and just running with it.”

Related: 10 Gory Asian Horror Movies to Dig Into

Seeding of a Ghost is one of Shaw Brothers Studio’s finest forays into black magic insanity. The astonishingly strange film follows a Hong Kong cab driver’s descent into madness after he accidentally hits a sorcerer with his cab. He soon turns the evil curse around to work in his favor, as he enacts vengeance upon a gang of thugs who murdered his wife.

Filled with drama and mean-spirited mayhem, Seeding of a Ghost is Grade-A supernatural spectacle. As if the majority of the movie wasn’t nuts enough, the third act goes absolutely off the rails with scene after scene of gory, blood-spewing, devil-baby delivering, tentacle-strangling, gut-munching chaos that builds to a climax that has to be seen to be believed.

Related: The Best Asian Ghost Movies, Ranked

Hell Has No Boundary is a fast-paced and crazy trip into the void courtesy of Shaw Brothers’ regular Yang Chuan, the same man who gave us the previously mentioned Seeding of a Ghost. Hell Has No Boundary is equally (if not more) insane as the last entry, and is positively loaded down with gory mayhem, colorful cinematography, and otherworldly eccentricities.

It follows a female police officer who goes camping for her birthday and winds up being haunted by a spooky green ghost. That’s only the beginning of the weirdness, as things quickly go from bad to worse for our hero. A 90-minute nightmare of vibrant neon and blood-soaked, maggot-filled malaise, Hell Has No Boundary will, in typical Shaw Brothers horror fashion, rock your brain and leave you senseless.

Unlike most of the other films on this list, Human Lanterns is a Hong Kong horror film that more closely resembles the period piece wuxia material of Shaw Brothers Studio’s kung fu films. It deals with a brash, well-to-do man who hires a strange craftsman to put together a lantern in his honor for an upcoming festival. The lantern maker, burned by the wealthy man years before, seizes the opportunity to strike back at him using all sorts of devilish practices.

Slasher horror meets martial arts in this gorgeously rendered hybrid film that feels somewhat like a lost Mario Bava movie spliced together with the typically exhilarating wire-stunt action that Shaw Brothers is known for. And don’t worry – the movie fully delivers on its title, with luminescent cannibal creations that would make Leatherface giddy.

A nutso psychedelic trip into the lovably lunatical mind of Kuei Chih-Hung (director of the above-mentioned films Bewitched and Hex), The Boxer’s Omen isn’t just the greatest Shaw Brothers horror movie – it might just be the crowning jewel of all Hong Kong horror.

The movie follows a boxing champion who gets horribly injured in an unfair fight. The boxer then enlists his brother to strike back at the baddie who crippled him, which, through a roundabout series of events, leads to the discovery that their family has been living under a very severe curse. A mission to lift the curse ensues, which takes the heroes literally to Hell and back.

After a pretty unremarkable first act (which intentionally causes the viewer to lower their guard), the movie explodes into a weird, spiritual, and visceral assault on the senses. Don’t try to make sense of any of it, just let the rainbow of blood, guts, and slime wash over you – it’s an unforgettable experience, and wholly unlike anything that the rest of the Shaw Brothers catalog or the greater horror genre can provide.

horror filmsCorpse ManiaBlack MagicThe Legend of the 7 Golden VampiresBewitched HexThe Oily ManiacSeeding of a GhostHell Has No BoundaryHuman LanternsThe Boxer’s Omen