Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington
(Zombadings: Kill Remington with Fear)
Directed by: Jade Castro, The Philippines, 96 minutes, comedy/horror
10 & 11 March 2012, Singapore Art Museum Moving Image Gallery
Zombadings (gay zombies, in tagalog gay lingo) is based on a simple straight foward plot: young Remington goes around making fun of gays, incessantly calling them bakla (tagalong term referring to effeminate, sissy men or cross-dressers) and ultimately gets his come-uppance when a scary looking bakla curses him to turn gay when he grows up.
Fast forward and dashing Remington (Filipino teen idol Mart Escudero) is now in love with lovely Hannah (Lauren Young), but the curse begins to slowly take effect (indicated by a flying pashmina shawl which trails him). Remington soon begins to display fabulous behaviour and develops feelings for his best friend Jigs (Kerbie Zamora) instead. The three embark on an adventure to “cure” him. Along the way, a couple of bigots attempt to kill the gays in town (who are purposely portrayed as drags in the movie, a further stab at a gay stereotype) and this incurs the wrath of gay zombies. How do you not want to watch such a movie, based on this ridiculously funny storyline? So despite not having bought a ticket to this sold-out film, I tried my luck waiting outside the film venue, small-talked with one the screenwriters and was given a “VIP” seat!
Undoubtedly, Zombadings is a bucket of laughs from start to end, but manages to steer clear from being plain slapstick. It pushes beyond laughter to a level, allowing it to superficially address some flawed social issues within the context of the Filipino community the film was made for, as well as for any society in general.
As with any movie featuring drag queens, the film unabashedly plays up the larger-than-life stereotypes of over-the-top drags, some of whom are martyred in the film because of their sexual orientation and more so, it seems, because they do not shy away from looking like Diana Ross – hence they are made to look like her when they do eventually get fatally zapped by the all-knowing plastic toy-looking Gaydar (which was hilariously conceived by the villain based on a student’s idea of a gay animal detector so that gay animals could be identified for purposes like modelling!).
Now while some might feel that the spell on Remington, being referred as a “curse”, give gays a negative referral, Zombadings director Jade Castro and screenwriters Raymond Lee and Michiko Yamamoto I feel, use this premise to drive the movie and to ultimately counter the implications of the curse and the perceived negative connotations of being gay.
In the end, when Remington’s once-homophobic father gives up his heterosexuality for his son, it figures that homosexuality is not such a damned “curse” after all for only a macho man can be man enough to take it on. Moreover, as Hannah suggests in one scene, being gay means having admirable strength in character which not all humans may be capable of possessing. And this to me, is the sole line which best supports the movie theme of acceptance.
Even as the protagonist yearns to be “cured” of his curse and return to being a “normal” heterosexual, there are scenes within the film which extoled being different, or gay in this sense, propagating the cliché that differences between mankind should be embraced.
However, this typical happy-ever-after message, though politically correct and a winner for human rights, is to me by now, a little bit of a drag. (For the message to have been even clearer, as commented by one reader in an online blog of the film, Remington could have remained gay and learnt to embrace his vainer, colourful and more vocal new life, and the ensemble, including Hannah, could have loved him still.)
There were scenes in the film that seemed to reflect reality within the local Philippine community: some stereotypical – the homophobics, seen as macho men who partook in manly activities like drinking (Remington was asked by his father and his group of homophobic friends to join them and be a part of “real men”. It seemed to be an assumption that by joining the group, or being involved in such activities, you would not be a homosexual. What’s ironic is that all in the group were or turned gay by the end of the movie.)
Others were more specific – eg, corruption within the community. In a scene with the beauty contest, the key judge was seen dancing with the contestants, attempting to bribe them. However this, like other scenes with social references, was quickly doused with comedic elements. In this case, an ugly Zombading distracts viewers from the judge and his sexual advances. The film thus alerts audiences of the presence of undesirable issues without preaching.
There seems also to be a reflection of the community’s somewhat tolerant stance towards homosexuals. Apart from the homophobes in the movie, the rest of the town people appear rather nonchalant about the gay characters and some even view them positively. During one male-bonding session, many “straight” characters reveal that they too have had homosexual encounters (though I found this a little bizarre and provoked the thought if this was indeed a true representation of the typical straight Filipino male community).
During the film’s post dialogue, director Jade admitted that though the film focussed on one gay stereotype, their intention of the film was essentially a mash-up of other gay genres familiar within the Filipino community (eg macho dancers etc). He also mentioned that the Philippine film industry produces many gay films, a reflection of its possibly matured gay scene, where some movies had gone on to become best grossing films. He even revealed a highly developed gay lingo within the Philippine gay community, of which even heterosexuals and the mainstream population had begun mimicking.
Zombadings is on a superficial level, another fun movie watch. It may have been the writers’ intent to include some social and political issues clothed in humour but because they are treated in such light-hearted fashion, they may remain just that – funny real-life resemblances that were wittily just dragged up.
This review is by Ryandall Lim and we are signing out with…