The show is about to begin! Darren Lynn Bousman’s horror-musical Repo! The Genetic Opera begins its limited theaters run tomorrow here in the States (theater listings). In addition to our first review, beyond the break you’ll find Mike Pereira’s thoughts on the film that takes place 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. Visit the official website for an added experience.
Audacity and originality are two qualities severely lacking in cinema today. Repo! The Genetic Opera has both of those qualities in spades. But does it work? Some of the biggest disasters in film have strived for the skies only to fall brutally flat on its face. There is no two ways about it; Repo! The Genetic Opera recklessly teeters on the plank of being brilliant or falling into utter disaster. Either way, this makes viewing it all the more exhilarating. Director, Darren Lynn Bousman’s personal venture into the dangerously risky world of rock opera is the most alive cinematic experience in quite some time.
To put it simply, Repo! The Genetic Opera is set in the apparent not-so-distant future, in which an evil corporation (is there any other?) provide organ transplants to the public. If a bill payment is missed, be prepared to have it repossessed by the organ repo man. Considering how insane the synopsis reads, it’s actually a rather engaging even poignant piece of storytelling. Some goodwill might be required for the first act in which the film begins a little too urgent and chaotically. It takes awhile to settle into this wildly imaginative world mainly because there is nothing out there quite like it.
The strong costume and production design only help in providing the film’s individuality. While the CGI work is noticeable, it’s beautifully realized and gives Bousman’s world a real presence and scope. Gore fans won’t be let down since it’s drenched in blood and guts from start to finish.
As for the casting department, this viewer will admit apprehension because…well, it’s one of the most eclectic and bizarre ensembles ever assembled. Amazingly, the filmmakers’ intuition was dead on. Anthony Head is just flat-out awesome as the Repo Man. He belts out every moment, every song with complete conviction and passion. Alexa Vega is moving as protagonist, Shilo Wallace. Her lovely voice and every-girl quality grounds the film in a reality in which the viewer can believe. Alexa successfully makes us care for the drama and not get overwhelmed by the sheer insanity going on within every frame. Paul Sorvino brings the necessary larger than life persona to the film’s main antagonist, Rotti Largo. Also, who would have known he can belt out opera like it was nobody’s business?! As his sons, Bill Moseley and Nivek Ogre (of Skinny Puppy fame) are an outrageous blast. Musical diva, Sarah Brightman is terrific as Blind Mag. Co-writer and co-composer, Terrance Zdunich also plays the role of Grave-Robber, essentially the Greek Chorus of this musical. He is magnetic in every moment he’s onscreen. Last and surprisingly not least…Paris Hilton. She gives a solid, committed performance here as cosmetic surgery addict, Amber Sweet, daughter of Rotti Largo.
There is very little dialogue since there is wall to wall music. The soundtrack is an insane blend of rock, industrial and of course, opera. The result is rather unique and unconventional but at the same time oddly infectious. The songs stayed with this viewer’s head long after he left the theater. The soundtrack is a must-get!
Props must be given to director, Darren Bousman. Surely, he was offered everything and anything after helming three successful Saw sequels. Instead Bousman used his clout and defiantly chose to bring to life his dream project which also, so happens to be outrageously uncommercial. His energy and passion for Repo! The Genetic Opera bleeds within every frame. One can see a million other ways in which the whole thing could have collapsed into a total mess but Bousman’s sure hand and focused vision amazingly holds it all together. He cleverly uses comic book panels to fill in back-story for individual characters. There is a great deal of story here but by utilizing such cinematic techniques, Bousman keeps the story moving along without sacrificing character development. It’s not perfect though. Aside from early pacing issues, there are moments that are cut too much like a music video. But the film’s blistering energy and bold offbeatness successfully takes its audience to an exciting new place and helps one to forget the world they were in for its duration. That’s what cinema is suppose to do but unfortunately very seldom does. Repo! The Genetic Opera is a genuinely original and riveting piece of entertainment. But it’s strictly a love it or hate it affair. There is no in betweens.
Every year genre fans receive films claiming to be the next bona fide cult classic in the vein of some seminal motion picture we hold dear to our hearts like The Evil Dead or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Truth is, what made those films classics, was the fact that they weren’t marketed down the audience’s throats. They were made immortal by fans and fans alone. That being said, as a genre fan, I believe Repo! The Genetic Opera is the first in ages that can potentially claim this illustrious title. The studio was all but prepared to dump this film into obscurity like some bastard offspring in which it didn’t want or even claim. Thankfully, Repo! The Genetic Opera’s ever-growing fanbase has gotten Lions Gate’s attention. After some enthusiastic early screenings, more and more theatrical engagements are popping up all over North America. This kind of phenomena is reminiscent of the well-documented journeys of the likes of Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s still way too early to tell if Bousman’s bold venture will have a similar happy ending but for what it’s worth, it’s already a cult classic in my eyes.
8 out of 10