“Sometimes I wonder how we ever got here.”
– Grave-Robber, Repo! The Genetic Opera
Starring Paris Hilton and Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Repo! The Genetic Opera is a horror, science fiction, musical from the producers of Saw. I imagine there are two types of people in the world:
- Those who read that first sentence and thought: “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
- Those who, like myself, thought: “Well, now I have to know what this is.”
If you find yourself in group 1, your instincts have served you well. This not a good movie. It’s not at all scary. I would put this in the splatterpunk sub-genre of horror. There’s plenty of gore, but not much in the way of fright. There is no science in this movie to really interest sci-fi fans. There are science-sounding words, that much is true. As for the musical part, it’s cringey. And that is probably the biggest disappointment about this movie because there really are some excellent singers in the cast. They just aren’t given anything to work with.
If you found yourself in group 2, you might be thinking that this movie is so bad that maybe it’s good. This review is for you.
Set in the near future, the world has undergone an epidemic of organ failure. The biotech company “GeneCo” has come up with a way to provide new organs to the population. It’s never really made clear exactly where these new organs come from. I guess maybe GeneCo makes them? I mean they have word “gene” right in the name and cloning has something to do with genetics, right?
Regardless, if you need organs GeneCo can hook you up. The organs are, understandably, quite expensive. Fortunately, GeneCo offers organ financing. It is in your best interest to make your payments on time, though. Anyone who is more than 90-days delinquent on their organ payments could receive a visit from The Repo Man, an assassin-surgeon who will cut GeneCo’s property right out of you.
The movie begins with Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), head of GeneCo, receiving word that he’s dying. He will need to leave the wildly successful company to one of his children. There’s just one problem: his children are terrible garbage people. Enter Shilo Wallace (Alexa Vega), the ill and home-bound daughter of Rotti’s lost love. Shilo is closely watched over by her father, Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head). Nathan has a secret that must be kept from Shilo at any cost. For what would his precious daughter say if she knew that he was the dreaded night surgeon, The Repo Man!
Rotti goes behind Nathan’s back to tempt Shilo into becoming his heir. Along the way Shilo meets a colorful cast of characters. Grave-Robber (Terrance Zdunich), a black market Zydrate (drug) dealer. Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton), Rotti Largo’s surgery addicted daughter. And Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman), the closest friend of Shilo’s late mother and official voice of GeneCo. All of whom educate her on the way of the world and her family’s complicated history with GeneCo that her father has tried to shelter her from.
Repo! The Genetic Opera opened in 2008. I have to admit, I’d never heard of it until recently. I happened to discover it on the $5 rack in a Barnes and Noble. I love cheesey B-horror movies and musicals. I wondered how I happened to miss this one. According to IMDB, the estimated budget for the movie was about $8.5 million with the movie grossing only $140,244 at the box office. It was a flop with a very limited release. In North America, the film was only screened in 6 cities. Comparisons have been drawn between Repo and the much more commercially successful, Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). In fact, Repo star Anthony Stewart Head played Dr. Frank N. Furter in a British stage production of Rocky Horror.
Certainly you can compare the nonsensical plots of both The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Repo! The Genetic Opera. Neither film’s plot really holds up to any kind of logical analysis. Where Rocky Horror surpasses Repo was in the music. The lyrics often were often silly and comical, making very little sense, but they were catchy. The soundtrack for Rocky Horror really holds up and is fun to listen to over and over again.
I loved Anthony Stewart Head and Sarah Brightman’s vocals in Repo, but the songs themselves were really poorly constructed. There is a lot of Les Mis-esque sing talking throughout the movie, and it just doesn’t work. The few songs with proper lyrics and rhythm are actually decent. There just aren’t enough of them.
The strongest element of Repo! The Genetic Opera is the world that it’s set in. The sets and costumes look pretty cool in that 2000’s goth sort of way. The gore, for those who enjoy that sort of thing, was pretty well done. Most of the effects were practical, and the few CGI elements that were in the movie blended well. I actually found myself wanting to know a little bit more about the world. There are several themes circulating throughout the movie that aren’t ever fully explored. For example, Amber Sweet’s addiction to plastic surgery and the mysterious anesthetic-like drug Zydrate.
The movie has a score of 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, and I think that is accurate and fair. It’s certainly not a good film, and the awkward songs make it a little tough to watch at times. If you’re like me though, and you love cheesey B-horror movies I would check it out. Watch it with a few friends. You’ll get a couple laughs and something to talk about for weeks to come as you all try to figure out what exactly it was that you just saw.
Title Quote: Repo! The Genetic Opera. Dir. Darren Lynn Bousman. Lionsgate, 2008. Film.