It was a cult mob last night, screaming, clapping at CCP’s main theater for the midnight showing of Zombading 1 (Patayin sa Shokot Si Remington).
We were the hard-core fans of Raymond Lee, come to see what had been tweeted and FB’ed and buzzed about for the past weeks. The title alone was a deviation of an already deviated subject. Something about gay Zombies.
We could feel the frisson from the cast and crew introduced on stage before the movie started. Raymond’s reputation precedes. Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Olivares, about a young gay boy who falls in love with a cop, showed seven years back, was totally raved locally, got incredible mileage and awards globally and ratcheted Cinemalaya, then a fledgling movie competition program into a beloved institution for film freaks.
In contrast to Maximo’s urban slum setting this movie is set in the province, and all of us displaced provincials get to see rolling hills, mature trees, fiestas, and a laid back life and clean air we know is good for us. In fact, Remington, the lead, is a young man who doesn’t want to move to the city for fear of lung cancer.
Remington as a young precocious fundie goes around identifying who’s bakla (gay) in his town and taunts them. Lots of angry bakla can’t hit the boy until he makes the mistake of encountering a grieving bakla widow in a cemetery. This queen turns out to be a witch and he curses the boy, telling him he’ll be queer when he grows up.
It’s 15 years later and the curse begins with Remington being chased by some hunky monster with a massive frizz who shaves all his body hair, including the pubic, makes him hanker for tight chick t-shirts, and makes him talk gay-speak fluently. And of course, what was once decent looking boy next door now acts, rolls his eyes and sashays like… uh, a full-fledged bakla.
While he’s morphing, there are the sub-plots. A series of killings going on in the town, all the victims, gay hairdressers. Their bodies found with too much make-up on, eyes still open and looking quite toasted. The police chief is Remington’s mom and along with her female side-kick officer and the woman mayor, seem to have, (eye-brows lift here) mannish dispositions.
Ah… we rollick and enjoy Remington’s liberation and at one point we are dancing with him as stars and fireworks and colors stream out of his cute bod. And then we’re all in his budding love story. He starts seeing his basketball mate and drinking buddy in a new light. There are sexually tense moments like up on a tree together gazing at a bucolic countryside or Remington clinging to his buddy driving a tricycle. And like most provincial boys, he is absolutely OK about Remington being gay and even makes the first move, boasting he’s no “virgin” to the scene. The seduction in the stairs and the first lips-to-lips elicited frenzied happy screaming in the theater. Our ultimate fantasy now on the big screen.
But, there’s still the matter of the serial killings and oh, yes, a girl who’s smitten with
Remington before he turned gay. This is the nuanced part, executed quite well. Gay Remington searches his feelings, articulates it as best he can with the girl and we can relate to it. Interestingly though, Remington bares his warm feelings for her, in English, and that gave it a detached, disingenuous and comical feeling. Well done.
So, who’ll score, fair maiden who won’t give up despite her boyfriend now in gayspeak hairdresser mode? Or basketball buddy who in the course of the film gets looking sexier and everyone’s fantasy.
Quizzically, Remington gives in to the girl and goes off looking for the widow who cast the bakla spell on him. There is a reunion and a violent tussle between the two. Who wins?
And will the killer of hairdressers get caught? I will leak it though that the zapped hairdressers become happy zombies in the end.
The love angle ending was not my ideal (this is though Zombading 1) but then again this movie, pure camp, satire and black comedy in part defies any programmed endings we hanker for in the few gay movies that come our way. Zombadings seems aimed at a younger gay subculture with its own language, humor and poignancy. Sentimentality and a one-on-one buildup of affection wasn’t on the script and, actually, didn’t belong.
Acting was both thumbs up, particularly the guy playing Remington, his buddy, his police mom and the widow witch. Direction was great. The provincial settings were marvelous and production quality high. Clearly a quantum jump from Maximo.
This zany movie has pushed the envelope quite a ways. It’s a must see! Coming to theaters in August!