the 1990s, there were no suburbs per se, where upper middle class residents of
Metro Manila could retreat from crime. Instead, affluent gated enclaves sprung
within the urban sprawl. In most cases, the gates kept the criminal element
out, but in the case of Eden Homes, the insanity is fenced in. Words fail to
describe the madness that is Timmy Harn’s Reptilia
in Suburbia (trailer
which screens as part of the 2015 edition of New Filipino Cinema at the Yerba
Buena Center for the Arts.
Dimalanta is a Satanic mad scientist who keeps Jake, a serial killer “gimp”
chained up in his living room. Jake is mostly likely responsible for a rash of
canine murders that have recently terrorized Eden Homes, but what really has
some of the Borromeos distressed is Alan the underachiever’s decision to move
back in with his mother. Her favored grown son Greg is openly contemptuous of
his brother, but at least the Borromeo cousins get along reasonably well. Greg’s
son and daughter even introduce the eczema suffering Jasper to weed, but he is
more interested in helping Brook Lyn, the girl next door, find her missing lap
dog. At least, that is an attempt to impose some narrative structure on Reptilia’s unruly tripppiness.
Reptilia just might be a work of
demented genius. The demented part is certainly beyond question. Harn
deliberately gives it the look of a hacked-up grade-Z DIY flick, as if seen on
an old school UHF channel, received through a coat-hanger wrapped in tin foil. You
can tell extraordinary effort was expanded to craft such a consistently dingy
look, because any other ultra-grubby indie would try to find some way to look
more polished than its budget constraints would allow. In fact, the unity of
Harn’s vision is strangely impressive.
the lack of continuity and structural logic, Harn’s game cast takes their roles
quite seriously, including trailblazing Filipino animator and independent
filmmaker Roxlee unleashing his inner Angus Scrimm as “Waldo” Dimalanta. There
are a lot of whacked out things happening throughout the film, but the chemistry
shared by the young cast members is actually rather winning.
Danilo Salas III, editor Sandra Santiago, and Harn’s post team make Reptilia look like it is on scratchy,
crackly film stock that barely survives the decay of age and neglect. It feels
more like an artifact of a mad outsider artist than a proper film. Yet, it is
much more watchable than it sounds, once viewers acclimate themselves to Harn’s
In all honesty, anyone whose tastes are remotely
conventional should skip Reptilia, or
risk having their heads explode. On the other hand, anyone who seriously
follows cult cinema should see it, just so they can say they have seen it.
Defying all sense of reason and good taste, Reptilia
in Suburbia is required viewing for those who are still reading when it
screens this Friday (6/12) and Sunday (6/21) as part of New Filipino Cinema
2015 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
Labels: Filipino Cinema, New Filipino Cinema '15, Roxlee