CAPSULE: REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA (2008)

DIRECTED BY: Darren Lynn Bousman

FEATURING: Anthony Head, Paul Sorvino, Alexa Vega, Sarah Brightman, , Paris Hilton

PLOT: A worldwide epidemic leaves humanity on the brink, but a biotechnology

Still from Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

company saves everyone…for a price.  Anyone unwilling or unable to pay becomes the prey of a killing machine known as the Repo Man, who repossesses organs after he kills deadbeats!

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Musicals, by their very nature, are weird, pseudo-realities that insist that in some situations, you just HAVE to sing.  And dance. And harmonize with other people who also sing.  And dance.  And while it is difficult to say how that is not weird, Repo! The Genetic Opera manages to be oh-so pedestrian.  Despite a plot that is a very distinct hybrid of Parts: The Clonus Horror, any random season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, and Tommy, there is no real imagination here, no sense of true creative force or even the vaguest idea how to be artistically subversive.  It’s just throwaway horror movie culture pap that would have been forgotten already if it weren’t so damn awful.

COMMENTS:  Every now and then a movie comes along that is so strikingly different and weird, people just have to stand up and take notice.  Such a movie can become a cult film overnight, igniting passionate statements online like “[Repo!] is such an amazing and very cool artistically rich and collaboratively ingenious of characters with rich metal Gothic and opera soul.”  But then again, sometimes a movie can seem original at first glance yet really be quite plain when one takes a closer look.  Such is the case with Repo! The Genetic Opera.  It is a collection of ideas from the bowels of the Joss Whedon fan-club message boards that is not so much weird as it is totally silly.  To the casual observer, this might look like something that hasn’t been done before, but all it is at closer inspection is a series of things that have been done before, set to music.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is an idea that started in the cabaret as a 10 minute performance, grew into a short film, then somehow transformed into a 90 minute feature. And if you could tell a story in 10 minutes but stretch it out to 90 minutes, much like a taffy pull, you can bet there will be heaping gobs of sag at various points.  So, it’s the future.  The date is kind of fuzzy, and so are a number of details here, but there is a massive swell in organ failures.   It’s an epidemic that nearly crippled the globe, but luckily one company came to save the day: GeneCo!  From the smoldering rubble, they alone created a ready supply of genetically engineered organs for the masses.  They alone saved humanity.  But that saving hand did not come for free, and in more ways than the obvious financial setbacks involved in purchasing organs.  Because now GeneCo holds so much sway, that they passed through Congress a bill to allow organ repossession!  Anyone found to be skipping payments on their bills are now hunted down by the dreaded Repo Man, an agent of GeneCo whose sole purpose is to rip the organs from their recipients as swiftly as possible!

The film follows the problems of the dwellers of this 21st century dystopia.  Everybody has very maudlin, operatic issues: blood ties, family betrayals, mistrust of those closest, etc.  It makes sense here, though, because almost every spoken word here is SUNG!  That’s right; Genetic Opera takes on a whole new meaning as this kitschy sci-fi horror premise is belted out with more verve than Meat Loaf’s orgasms.  It’s a non-stop sing-along, with musical theatrics explaining the story and the central conflicts, with pieces like the classic… or the ribald… or what about the somber melodies of…

Yikes!  I just watched this movie and I can’t remember a damn song.  That’s never a good sign.  Seriously, I could not spout out one memorable or hilarious chorus, not one impressive piece of the score.  It just didn’t take with me.  If a musical is really good, you’ll be singing or humming tunes from it for months to come.  I still sing “Pretty Women” from Sweeney Todd, and I haven’t seen that in months!  Repo’s number one flaw, and arguably its number one attribute, is its musical nature.  But even I, a former fan of musicals, cannot put a mental bookmark on anything of merit here.  Looking at a track list, the song names sound familiar, like “Zydrate Support Network,” “Genetic Emancipation,” and “We Started This Op’ra Sh*t!,” but no lyrics or melodies spring to mind.

The insipid script is easier to recall, and of course the acting, which was churlish and vaudevillian, including surprise visits from Paris Hilton and Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy fame, and even Sarah Brightman of genuine vocal fame.  That, plus the premise, which revolves around a guy who rips overdue organs out of still-living bodies, could make for quite a gothic, bloody, ultra-campy affair.

Repo! isn’t the worst viewing experience, because admittedly some of the scenes were gleefully kitsch, and watching spines being pulled out of people’s backs and placed in bags for transportation is a pleasure we should all experience.  But Repo! The Genetic Opera is a musical that isn’t memorable, a horror film that doesn’t deliver, and a comedy mostly in the unintentional sense.  If this is your thing, it’s probably already a staple in your DVD tray, and if so, what are you even reading this for?  If you are new to this film, though, I would wait to watch it with a friend so one might at least have a laugh before returning this non-musical back to the video store.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“This is a weird movie… for all its glitches and oddities, Repo! impressed me on sheer force of strangeness, originality, and audacity. Love the flick or hate it, there’s little denying that Repo! is definitely something different… I expect Repo! to be embraced and adored on DVD by the movie fans who help turn “weird” flicks into “cult” favorites.”–Scott Weinberg, FEARnet (contemporaneous)

7 thoughts on “CAPSULE: REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA (2008)”

  1. I agree whole-heartedly. As a huge fan of weird sci-fi/horror musicals, I really wanted to love this, but it just wasn’t done intelligently enough to work. The music is boring and the story didn’t grab me. Loved the visuals though (what can I say, I dig futuristic goth clothing and blue hues).

    Also yeah, what was Sarah Brightman doing in this movie? She’s like… actually musically famous.

  2. You make some legitimate points, particularly where the music is concerned. The songs generally weren’t too memorable. I generally detest musicals but I kinda liked this film. It had issues, plenty of em. But I really liked the goth sets and the costumes and I dug the premise. I thought the Blind Mag character was great and I thought Brightman was the highlight of the film. Okay, Brightman and getting to see Paris Hiltons face fall off!

  3. I just saw this, and I agree with Eric and Alex. It’s definitely weird, though, and not a wasted watch for the curious; it’s just ultimately not a very good movie. It’s really quite a missed opportunity, and I’m afraid it’s set the cause of gory sci-fi musicals back about 30 years. As everyone points out, the music is the main problem: not even one memorable tune in the whole “opera.” I liked the sets and the costumes, the whole Blade Runner-meets-MTV look; I liked the premise, I laughed at the Paris Hilton cameo, but the idea just doesn’t work without the tunes to back it up.

  4. This is the type of film that people either really f*cking love, or really f*cking hate. I myself happen to be in the ‘Really f*cking love’ category. I’ve watched tons of horror films, both old and new, and (though I hate to admit it) quite a few musicals. This, I think, mixes the best of both, with nice, provocative music (My personal favourite is ‘Chase the Morning’ , an interesting set of characters, and though the story is a bit cliched, it’s still interesting enough to watch.

  5. I love this movie. It is a hate it or love it sorta thing, though. I have the whole album on my ipod. Though you do make good points, you,re wrong on one thing. Repo went from a short little skit with a different plot but same setting, to a full stageplay with the same plot as the movie, and the short film was just used to convince people that a good movie could be made.

  6. I rather enjoyed this one, and wound up writing a glowing review for it on my own blog. The thing its, it’s not a musical, it’s an operah. There’s quite a bit of difference there. I found the number Zydrate (Surgery), I think that’s what it’s called, very catchy personally. Admittedly, though, it’s not for everyone. Not trying to criticise your opinion, but I enjoyed it.

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