DIRECTED BY: Darren Lynn Bousman
FEATURING: Anthony Head, Paul Sorvino, Alexa Vega, Sarah Brightman, Bill Moseley, Paris Hilton
PLOT: A worldwide epidemic leaves humanity on the brink, but a biotechnology
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)