Friday, September 9, 2011

Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington (Jade Castro)

Mart Escudero as the cursed Remington.

I have to give props to this film for being able to carry out a fairly original horror-fantasy narrative, and extending a considerably offense-free humor regarding the homosexual sub-culture. But aside from that, I highly commend Mart Escudero for his great performance as the titular character (and also for the film's highly talented cast that are also good sports) that is condemned to undergo a 'fairy' metamorphosis and then to die of 'shokot' (a gay lingo for 'fright', for the uninitiated). Although an indie film (and we all know how some indie films take themselves too seriously), "Zombadings" wallows in its own exuberant B-movie cheesiness, filled with awkward editing, a stupendous murder MacGuffin (the 'gay-dar'), a quiet town (as always), and of course, hordes of cross-dressing zombies. But what makes it different at the very least is the fact that although we have seen endless amounts of comic homosexuality on film, I think this is quite the first time that I've seen a film that have dealt with homosexuals as if they're a generalized, cohesive and interdependent group.

With those mind-numbing 'gay-lingos', is it really their official language that spans borders of place, age and degrees of homosexuality? What if Remington, cursed by Roderick Paulate's character to be gay when he grows up, transformed into a discreet, shy-type one in the sense of how other complex 'bromance' genre films came to portray them? And why are gays in this film so, so sensitive? Is it really possible for a naïve kid's tease of 'bakla, bakla!' to inspire a spirit-summoning wrath? But again, questions like these aren't really particularly relevant let alone valid for this type of movie. Films like this is in a universe of their own; a homage-littered and film-recalling one at that.

As Remington slowly turns into a full-fledged, not so subtle 'bading', I can't help but compare Ogie Diaz's polar opposite transformation into a sultry Via Veloso in "Hiling". The setting of Lucban, Quezon (The great ‘Buddy's’, slightly seen in the plaza scenes) reminds me in some ways of Flavio's Sto. Sepulcro, while the zombies and the campy feel seems like a depleted, musical sequence-less combination of "The Happiness of the Katakuris" and a subliminal manifestation of Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

So, maybe that's what lacks in "Zombadings" that could have really perfected its self-mocking tone: A musical sequence. Granted, there's a colorful dance sequence for Remington (I love how ‘Remington’ sounds like a classically macho rifle yet suggests the contextually otherwise), but this film really begs for a dance ensemble. Like the one in the masterful yet obscure B-movie "Dead & Breakfast", "Zombadings" is the kind of film that is tailor-made for such. If musical sequences served as a deconstructive ingredient for the satiric "Ang Babae sa Septic Tank", a musical scene or two could have really 'constructed' this film's true, green-blooded (staying with the homosexual tone) feel as an 'eklavu'-filled nonsensical ride, and truly proud of it.

"Zombadings" is pure guilty pleasure, and even though it's an indie film (some people think that watching more indie and less mainstream films is a bloody good investment for their intellectual self-image), it is a surprisingly hollow, shallow and an inch-deep offering from our local film industry's alternative realm. But what really caught me off-guard regarding this film is the fact that when it looked like it will be another one of those films where gays are once again reluctantly placed into a comic freak show heap to be randomly stoned with malicious, bordering dehumanizing jokes, it's a revelation that it has portrayed the homosexual community as a productive, hard-working bunch. A breath of fresh air in its ultimate message and, considering that it was advertised as an unrelentingly nauseating take on the concept of flesh-eating zombies and stereotyped image of cross-dressing gays, quite innocuous in its overall execution.

With the mainstream generating endless concepts, be it comedy, drama, romance or combination of all three, to pass as cinematic escapism, this is our indie industry's take on the idea: Not truly unforgettable, not that great, sometimes even fleeting in its own right. But at least, it's head over heels fresher than its comparably big-budgeted half-brothers (or half-'sistahs', perhaps?).


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