Darren Lynn Bousman | 2008 | 98 mins | USA
The man who brought you Saw II, III and IV is back, and this time he's got a futuristic goth musical starring Paris Hilton and Giles from Buffy! Wait ... what?
Repo! The Genetic Opera is a bizarre experiment which is unsurprisingly (but perhaps unfortunately) creating some of the most excited buzz at the Toronto After Dark Festival, which launches on Friday, Oct 17.
Essentially, the film is a musical set in a not-so-distant dystopian future, in which a biotech company called GeneCo saves the world from an epidemic of organ failures by offering transplants with an easy payment plan. Unfortunately, those who miss their payments are hunted by the dark, mysterious, merciless Organ Repo Men.
Alexa Vega plays a young woman named Shilo (the daughter of quiet scientist Nathan Wallace, played by Anthony Head), who's looking for a cure to a rare disease that keeps her locked away in her father's mansion. She's also looking for some answers about her family's shady history and her mother's mysterious death, which seems to be in some way connected to GeneCo.
Meanwhile, in the GeneCo offices, patriarch Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino) rules a roost of petulant, spoiled children - plastic-surgery addicted Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton), the abusive and murderous Luigi (Bill Moseley) and the gross-tastically faceless Pavi (Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy).
I know what you're thinking. How could something so star studded possibly be bad?
Well, let me tell you.
First of all, the music. Like many musicals, Repo! is packed to the gills with songs - in fact, it's so full of songs that there's hardly a moment of spoken dialogue. This would get a bit tiresome in the best of musicals, but unfortunately Repo! has at least three so-so numbers for every catchy hit, so the mediocre-melody fatigue starts to set in pretty early.
Secondly, the editing. The sets and costumes in this film are impressive (Sarah Brightman as Blind Mag is probably the best designed character, but the rest are nothing to sneeze at either), but unfortunately we hardly get to see any of it as the camera zips around maniacally. It's hard to appreciate the work that went into all that art direction when there are no moments of stillness. Elaborately choreographed dance numbers are hard to take in when the DP never pulls back into a wide enough shot that we can actually see it all.
Initially, I thought I also disliked the weird character of the Grave Robber (Terrance Zdunich) who functions as an omniscient narrator, and whose commentary bookends the film but is mostly absent in the middle. On second thought, I realised that I really enjoyed this guy, found him charming and fun, and thought his musical numbers were among the best in the whole film. "I wish I'd seen more of that Grave Robber" is what I left the theatre thinking!
Here's the thing about Repo! The Genetic Opera. I thought it was shit, but I think goths are the dumbest subculture, and I've never been to see Rocky Horror on the big screen. If you enjoy Dark Raves or have ever dressed up like Death from the Sandman comics, then you will unapologetically love Repo!, and that's ok. This isn't just any bad film. This is a bad film with a built in audience who will revel in it (and quite possibly turn it into a cult fave over the years, thought the jury's out on that) the way I go batshit insane for dollar bin VHS finds, y'know?
So, if you read the above and are vaguely curious but undecided about this train wreck, I advise you not to bother. Instead, go see Let The Right One In, Red, Donkey Punch, Tokyo Gore Police or I Sell The Dead - or any of the other more intriguing titles TAD has to offer. If, however, any part of you was like "Oooh, Sarah Brightman!" or "what part of goth musical doesn't sound awesome?!" or "OMG Giles from Buffy" then please, knock yourself out. This one's literally made for you.