Repo! The Genetic Opera is the brainchild of Darren Lynn Bousman, who most of you know as one half of the team that made SAW such an immensely popular and lucrative franchise, and buddy Terrance Zdunich, who is mainly a storyboard artist working on movies and TV shows.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the plot.
In the year 2056 – the not so distant future – an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savior emerges: GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants, for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by villainous Repo Men. In a world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, a sheltered young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family’s mysterious history. After being sucked into the haunting world of GeneCo, she is unable to turn back, as all of her questions will be answered at the wildly anticipated spectacular event: The Genetic Opera. Written by Lionsgate
If there’s one thing that is grossly apparent right off the bat, it’s that Bousman and Zdunich have a lot of respect and love for cult classics such as Rocky Horror Picture Show and also seem influenced by more elegant and classic opera works such as Phantom of the Opera. There’s even a bit of The Who’s rock opera Tommy in there. It’s no shock that the mind that helped push the SAW franchise forward would be able to create a Gothic, dystopian future, but credit must be given for slick, yet earthly atmosphere embedded in the sometimes hallucinogenic visuals of the film. It looks great, period.
Bousman manages to keep the narrative moving along swiftly with great focus, even while dealing with the difficult medium of opera. That’s right kids, an opera where no word of dialogue is ever simply “said.” Unlike musicals, where there can be breaks in between musical passages to drive the story home with normal movie dialogue, Bousman ensures that every word is “sung”, which can be very awkward at first when your not expecting it. It’s difficult to accurately describe, but once you see and hear it you will clearly understand what obstacles must have popped up from this bold and daring choice. Other than that, Bousman also unleashes some incredibly awesome graphic novel panels to fill us in VERY quickly of a particular characters background.
It may be a tricky type of film to make, but Bousman is a razor-sharp horror producer and director, and knew that if he brought in the right talent, he would have a chance to lure in a slew of fans regardless of the experimental nature of the film. Paris Hilton (Super Global Slut) , Anthony Head (Giles from the Buffy TV Series), Sarah Brightman (acclaimed opera/classical singer and once married to Lloyd Weber who wrote Phantom of the Opera), Bill Moseley (Of House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devils Rejects fame) and Paul Sorvino round out the eclectic nucleus of the cast. Terrance Zdunich also has a fairly large role as the Graverobber, and steals the show with his “Zydrate Anatomy” song. The cast is, like so many aspects of this brave venture into total cult cinema, uneven throughout, with those who can sing clearly being more enjoyable and tolerable than those who can’t, with Alexa Vega and Bill Moseley probably being the two biggest culprits. Hopefully the star power and notoriety brought by those actors outweighs the damage they have done by simply being the weak links vocally.
Which leads me to my assessment of the acting itself, which again can be easily defined as uneven. While some amount of over and under acting is perfectly acceptable in horror, especially in something this theatrical and over the top, but sometimes the cartoon like personalities crossed the line between tasteful and embarrassingly out of place. At times the actors would play very serious, as if this carried the same weight as The Phantom of the Opera, and at other times it was clear everyone was having fun and things were much more airy and carefree. I waited for the flick to settle down, and choose a definite mood and direction, but it never did, as it gleefully jumped back and forth between trying to be emotionally heavy and serious, and being grin-worthy, funny and lightweight. Maybe I am reading to much into something that can’t truly be defined, but I would have loved to see some lines drawn pertaining to acceptable behavior from all characters, as you would with any other film.
The final piece of the Repo puzzle is one that isn’t a very common problem in movies, the soundtrack. That’s not to say all movies has great soundtracks, but they also don’t rely as heavily as Repo does on its’ music. So how does the song selection hold up? Take a guess.
Some of the songs, like Zydrate Anatomy and Legal Assassin knock it completely out of the park, while others are either too short or too gimmicky to be considered truly great. While taste is bound to vary from viewer to viewer, I felt the music was acceptable, but could’ve benefitted from maybe one or two ballads complete with verses, chorus, and a bridge and a few more rock and roll anthems.
I, like so many of you, have waited for years, eagerly anticipating this movie to be released in any format, anywhere. And while it may look and sound like I have nothing but negative things to say about Repo!, I feel it’s a case of me being exceptionally critical of a piece of work I felt had all ingredients to really show the world how versatile the “horror” genre can truly be. Repo is by no means a failure, but instead comes off as a combination of over-indulgence and lofty ambitions. It succeeds at what it aimed to do, but the cost for achieving that goal may be a dent in Bousman’s reputation, depending on how this is received in the community. There’s no doubt in my mind that this vehicle can be used to create an amazing, genre-bending film, but Repo! isn’t that flick.
There’s a lot of psychotropic, semi-gory fun to be had with Repo!, but it’s kinda like looking for a 20 dollar bill in your friends extremely messy room, you know it’s worth it to look, but your gonna have to sift through some shit to get what you want.