Now that there’s a (suspected) fake negative review for Repo! The Genetic Opera over at AICN, Lionsgate has officially lifted the embargo for reviews and is giving us the go ahead to share our thoughts with you. Last week we posted (and removed) two reviews, which are now re-posted inside. I’ll be posting our official review in the coming week. In the not-so-distant future when an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet, scientists gear for a massive organ harvest. A biotech giant comes up with easy organ payment plans, but all financed organs are subject to legal default, including repossession at the hands of repo men.
NOTE – As this is a test screening, the following review may not 100% reflect the final product. Furthermore, as a lazy man who is often broke, I can’t guarantee that I’ll see the film during its theatrical release and/or update the review to include any changes.
I first became intrigued by Darren Bousman’s Repo: The Genetic Opera a year or so ago, when he mentioned Shock Treatment as a sort of influence. While I’m not a die hard fan of the Rocky Horror “series”, I do quite enjoy both films, and particularly liked how utterly batshit Shock was (I still don’t have a goddamn clue what is going on during large chunks of the film), and how it managed to “outweird” the original film. Well, Repo makes both of them look sane. And I mean that in the goodliest way possible.
The movie is based on a play (which Bousman directed a version of a few years ago, before he entered the world of Jigsaw), but since I haven’t seen it I don’t know how close the film follows it. There is no real “main plot”, but instead a series of interconnecting stories about a group of folks with ties to a futuristic organ donor/replacement company called Geneco. The film’s central character is Shiloh, played by Alexa Vega, aka the chick from Spy Kids (she’s like 20 now, so it’s OK to think she’s hot, right? Hope so.). She is suffering from some blood disorder and kept largely confined to her bedroom by her dad, played by Anthony Head (Giles!). Unknown to her, he works as a Repo Man for Geneco; killing and “taking back” organs from patients who failed to keep up with their payments. Geneco is run by Paul Sorvino, who is dying, and his kids (Paris Hilton, Bill Moseley, and Ogre from the band Skinny Puppy) are fighting one another over who gets to run the company once he passes. Sorvino also holds a grudge against Head, and there’s also an opera singer (who is also Shiloh’s godmother) and a grave robber who is over-medicating the surgery obsessed Hilton. While some plots are justifiably given more screen-time than others, it’s to Bousman’s credit (as well as the screenwriters, Terrance Zdunich and Darren Smith, who also appear in the film) that the film weaves so many different story threads while never once really pausing to let the audience take a breath, yet maintains coherency and a pace that builds and builds at a steady rate.
Also, this isn’t Rocky Horror or Nightmare Before Christmas, where the best musical numbers come in the first half and then the film sort of treads water for a while – here the best numbers come near the end. In fact, the one concern I had with the film was that it took 15 minutes to get to the first song that would make for enjoyable “stand-alone” listening (many of the “songs” are just a verse explaining story details). The opening of the film is a graphic novel style prologue explaining what has happened to the world in the future and how Geneco came to be – I’d rather they had a big number with these plot elements explained in the lyric. But the way the film just builds and builds up more energy as it unfolds is pretty astonishing, so in a way the “slow” feel of the first few scenes makes total sense – think of it as a roller coaster with a 10 foot climb rewarded by a 100 foot drop.
The cast is about as random as one could get (Paris Hilton and Bill Moseley as brother and sister? Giles playing a murderous boogeyman?), but there isn’t a single weak link in the cast. In fact, I must admit that Hilton is QUITE good in her role, both acting and singing (all of the primary characters sing their own songs). I usually can’t stand her in anything, but she won me over here. Moseley also has some great moments as the most violent character in the film, and it’s nice to see Head finally play the “Ripper” he never got a chance to be on Buffy. However, the godmother character, played by Sarah Brightman, doesn’t get to work with the other characters as much, so her scenes have a slight disconnect, and she is sort of MIA (other than TV screens) for the first half of the film – I would have liked to have her given something earlier on that would make her importance to the second half of the film have a bit more resonance.
The movie’s also just damn hilarious. Moseley singing “I’ll shoot you in the face!” to a guy offering him decaf is possibly the best moment in movie musical history. There’s also a rocking number called (I think) “I’m 17!” by Vega, who rocks around her room while two of her stuffed animals headbang along and Joan Jett shows up out of nowhere to provide the guitar riffs – I was laughing my ass off the entire time.
As for the violence/gore, it’s pretty over the top, but also sparsely displayed throughout the film. I would say it’s about as violent as Sweeney Todd (but also about 20 min shorter), and it doesn’t stick out as much as it did in Todd, since the over the top slashing and “repossessing” is just as nutty as everything else in the film.
I’m sure that Lionsgate will market the film as “Saw meets Rocky Horror” or something to that effect, but that would be selling it short. While it’s certainly an easy way to describe it, the real hook for me was just the sheer originality and insanity of it all. You know how Sweeney Todd was almost all songs, but would occasionally “stop” and just have dialogue? No such thing here. There were a few songs that I really dug and wanted to applaud after, as is sort of customary for musical films, but the problem was: I couldn’t. My applause would be interrupting the next musical segment. I just hope people give the movie a chance and appreciate, if nothing else, the sheer originality on display. Anyone reading this site knows how many horror movies I endure, so when I see one that never ONCE reminds me of other movies (even the obvious comparisons – Todd, Rocky Horror, etc, only came to mind in generalized thoughts), and is able to totally suck me in and keep me entertained almost nonstop for 90 minutes, I get pretty thankful and happy. Sure, I love my formulaic slashers and action movies about guys taking over some sort of vehicle only to be thwarted by a rogue cop, but I secretly crave for more movies like Repo; where I am almost at a loss as to how I can review it or recommend it to others. It truly does need to be seen to be believed, and I hope you fine folks not only do just that, but enjoy it as well.
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Let me first make a few disclaimers: First, what was shown was an early, unfinished print with unfinished VFX and a temp sound mix. Second, I have been highly anticipating this film based alone, on the fact that OGRE from Skinny Puppy is involved. Lastly, I do know a few of the filmmakers involved – but I believe my opinion is still unbiased (take it for what it’s worth). Just so there is no question of my integrity of this early test screening review… all my cards are now on the table and with that said, this film is one of the most unique movie going experiences I have ever had.
To shortly sum it all up… enter the near future where body enhancements don’t stop at just plastic surgery. Fueled by a drug called Zytrate, people are re-organizing their internal parts as well to live on and as beautification. The titular Repo Man is there to collect body parts that have gone unpaid for. At the heart of the story is Shilo, a 17 year old girl (Alexa Vega of the Spy Kids films). She has been kept locked up in a house, where she is guarded from the outside world by her father who is secretly THE Repo Man. But like any teenager, she wants out and knows that there is more to life than her room (and her father’s affection). Enter the Largo family who own Genco – the biotech company that fuel the financing program (similar in nature to a standard car loan) – a twisted bunch of weirdo’s that will stop at nothing to remain the most powerful run company in the world.
The often-gruesome repossession scenes are wonderfully orchestrated to be slightly horrific and completely gross, yet never losing the edge of fun. This is not anything like the torture stuff we have come to expect from Bousman’s past films, but he continues the trend of sparing no one in blood volume. In one particularly kickass moment, two characters end up underneath a cemetery where they land in a pile of hundreds of dead bodies! Blood is flowing left and right – in the first ten minutes alone a woman gets her throat cut, a man is shot in the head, a few people are gutted and at no time does Bousman cut away. But let me be clear, this is NOT a proper horror film. Sure it is extremely graphic, but it’s not scary (and it’s not meant to be). Either way, horror fans will be happy to know that there is plenty of red flowing throughout the film.
A musical is never an easy thing to pull off, specifically because everyone has different musical tastes. What’s really cool about REPO! is that it brings a melody of musical genres together that are all based in Rock and Roll. Bousman goes as far as to have Joan Jett make a cameo during a hardcore rock sequence! The music ranges from traditional Broadway style to Opera to Industrial and so forth… and it never lets up. Make no mistake about it, this music will get in your head and have you wanting to cheer and sing along (it has it’s ROCKY moments) – during certain moments in the film you want to get up and applaud for the performances.
On that note, hats off to the folks behind the music and sound design; I cannot wait for this soundtrack to come out so I can rock out to these songs in my car! I have to say that there are about four or five songs that can (easily) be Oscar contenders if The Academy Awards have any taste for something other than the typical Randy Neuman crap that seems to be regularly nominated. You heard me right, REPO! has a very certain chance at being an Oscar nominated film!
Many people will be turned off at the fact that Paris Hilton has a role. While she may be the focus of TMZ and other craptacular tabloid shows, she seems to put away all of that and just act. She doesn’t remove you from the film, nor does she get the undeserved attention that the media normally pays to her. Here Paris is one piece of an ensemble cast, and she does just fine… actually she is pretty good. When the hype about her involvement wears out, people will be talking about Sarah Brightman, Bill Moseley and Alexa Vega.
Bill Moseley steals every scene he’s in by chewing the scenery and having a blast killing, singing and acting like a complete maniac. Sarah Brightman is about as huge as you could get when it comes to her reputation as a female vocalist. She spreads her wings further by bringing a very cool amount of class and elegance – and she is even Rock and Roll embodied! Alexa Vega is going to be a very big star; she seemed custom made for this roll as she sings with such effortless finesse, and fragile truth that you are drawn into her teen angst, without it looking forced. She is simply the standout performance of the film. And last but not least, I cannot write a review about REPO! without talking a bit about one of my favorite musicians in the world… Ogre. He doesn’t get nearly the screen time that I was hoping for, but what he does with it is super memorable; the fact that he wears other peoples faces through the film, further cements in the mystique behind the man himself even on film. He’s truly amazing.
REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA is a stunning and original film that will have a long lasting impact on the audience that will, without a doubt, generate a huge cult following. If you are here at Bloody-Disgusting, you are probably just as sick as I am of remakes, sequels and “re-imaginings”… REPO!’s captivating and surreal, showcasing a visual flair that many filmmakers would never dare to attempt. If you want something completely original that delivers juicy, fun, bold and exciting music, and of course loads of blood, REPO! Will rock you silly.