I saw Remington and the Zombadings at Outfest 2012 in Los Angeles. It was in Tagalog with English subtitles. It doesn’t matter if you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or straight–you’ll like the movie because there’s something for everyone.
In a typical Philippine provincial town, we meet our protagonist Remington (Martin Escudero). As a child, he frequently taunted gay people by pointing and shouting bakla (gay). Post-teen Remington becomes a cute boy-next-door womanizer who courts with cute girl-next door Hannah (Lauren Young). Hannah is turned off by Remington’s machismo and blows him off many times. Sounds like the beginning of a typical love story, right? Not quite…
Remington’s world gradually changes as his homophobic habits get turned against him from the childhood curse as a result of taunting the mourning drag queen, Pops (Roderick Paulate, a veteran in Filipino gay comedies). What follows the post-high school heartthrob is a strange series of events involving an S&M demon and a montage of scenes that turn super-straight Remington into the gayest boy in all the Philippines. Here, the movie makes a poignant point amidst all the craziness: No one chooses to be gay and although Remington becoming gay is mystical, he was forced to walk in the shoes of those he taunted and also walk among them.
In Escudero’s first gay role, he convincingly plays a confused, conflicted Remington turning from straight to flaming gay. His physical comedy is impressive, especially in his fluency of swardspeak, a dynamic Filipino gayspeak, especially in the hilarious bathroom scene and when he talks to Hannah’s mother. There’s also a scene when he breaks into a flamboyant dance in public radiating colorful stars and fireworks as he moves (like a rainbow shooting out of his butt).
Did I mention that as Remington turns gay, we have a little bit of a bisexual love-triangle? There’s Hannah who he likes a lot and tries to articulate his feelings and eventually about the gay curse, much like coming out. But he also digs Jigs (Kerbie Zamora), his best friend and drinking buddy. The comedic seduction of Remington and Jig satisfies some of the audience’s straight guy on guy fantasies (if you’re into that, of course). Remington and both his friends/love interests seek out the gay witch who cursed him, and things get even stranger from there. We’ve got some magic, a séance, and the rise of the “zombadings” (imagine drag queen zombies).
If that wasn’t bizarre enough for you, there’s the homophobic serial killer Suarez (Daniel Fernando) who’ll at some point try to kill Remington. He kills with the gaydar ray gun that shouts “bakla” to out gays and turns them into Diana Ross and then they’re dead. His hatred for gays is a generalization of homophobic rhetoric and the filmmakers cleverly drown it out with a passing marching band.
In addition to all the oddities, the film does challenge gender roles by reversing typical male roles to female characters and visa versa. The women are strong characters in the film. Remington’s mother, Fe (Janice de Belen), is a police officer leading the investigation into Suarez’s gay killing spree. Her police partner is Mimi (Angelina Kanapi) who has her head shaved and offers comedic moments in the movie. The entire police force is dominated by women, and there’s a female mayor. In contrast to this masculinization of women’s role is Remington’s father, Ed (John Regala), who is domestic and owns and manages a noodle shop.
At this point you’re probably curious about how a film can marry zombies, drag queens, and the serial killer. You might be disappointed to find that much of that stuff comes towards the end of the movie. But when you do see the drag queens return from their graves with a fierce vengeance against their killer, it hits hard and fast. It’s all over-the-top, but somehow it works just fine with the rest of the movie zaniness. But there is somewhat serious satire here too. The badings – the flamboyant gays who are often victimized – are turned into something feared or at least be able to fight back. It’s a way for the film to rescue the gay victims who were murdered by Suarez. Maybe if you take it a little further, it’s symbolic to bringing back (resurrected if you will) gay victims of hate, harassment, violence, discrimination, abuse, and murder. Maybe that’s reaching a little too far, but the movie does touch on empowerment, in this strange way, and stands against intolerance.
This film is a multi-genre movie, so it’s a little bit of comedy, drama, crime, horror, sci-fi, satire, queer, zombie, etc. At first glance it seems like the movie threw a lot of ideas together: sexuality, gender roles, homophobia and machosim, the homophobic serial killer, drag queen zombies, magic and curses, a gay-killing gaydar gun, love triangles, family matters, friendships, finding love and acceptance, and more. On top of that, the film tackles the difficult subject of homosexuality in the Philippines and delivers a powerful message of acceptance throughout. It doesn’t excel in one element, but all together it works and does very well taken as a whole and delivered by an outstanding cast. Take Remington for what it is and you’ll find it to be quite enjoyable, charming, a lot of fun, and lovable.
Remington and the Zombadings, released 2011, directed by Jade Castro and written by Jade Castro, Raymond Lee and Michiko Yamamoto.
CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN WITH BARANGAY LA ON OCTOBER 27, 2012!
Throw on your scariest, sexiest rags and join us for the ultimate Halloween event of 2012. Dance all night and have fun with Barangay LA, KUE-LA, and GAPSN! Get ready for some wicked fun in the heart of Los Angeles.
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