Repo! The Genetic Opera has “cult classic” written all over it. It’s the type of film that won’t be liked or appreciated by the mainstream, but will find its audience and be absolutely adored by those that seek it out. It’s a musical, like its title indicates, although it’s also a very bloody film. It mixes the musical and the horror genre, effectively, I think, and becomes a unique experience that needs to be seen to be believed.
The most imaginative part of Repo! is the future dystopia that it imagines. In it, an outbreak of organ failures happened which killed millions of people. A company called GeneCo sprouted up from the ground, and provided people with fake organs in order to cheat death. However, their deal was this: If you don’t follow through on their payment plan, they will send a “Repo Man” after you who will knock you out and cut out the company’s property. Sometimes they won’t even knock you out. Basically, you will die and the company won’t have taken a loss, as they can easily re-sell the organ they just repossessed.
The plot gives us an ensemble cast, all of whom get some big musical scenes. The lead, if you can call her that considering she also disappears for fairly long stretches and does little more than follow other people, is 17-year-old Shilo (Alexa Vega). She was born with a blood condition, and needs medicine from her father, Nathan (Anthony Head), in order to stay well. He keeps her locked in her room for safety purposes, and leads a double life as one of those hated Repo Men.
Meanwhile, the boss of GeneCo, Rotti (Paul Sorvino), has just learned that he’s terminally ill. He spends most of the time trying to decide which of his three children deserves to be left the company. Each one of them has a problem, and basically doesn’t deserve the company. Oh, and there’s a woman named “Blind Mag” (Sarah Brightman) who previously worked for the company but is now leaving — and they want the eyes they lent her back. All of this ends up coming to a head at an operatic event, the titular “Genetic Opera.”
We learn about the back stories for some of these characters via a comic book which also acts as a transitional device for scenes that might have cost too much to actually film. A good portion of the movie is told this way, actually, which does make it feel somewhat unique. Repo! certainly has its own style that carries over from the comic book scenes, too, shining through even in the live action parts. You can tell it’s a low budget project and this visual style is used to try to hide this, but it makes the film look unique and it always has something interesting to look at.
Repo! isn’t the type of horror film that tries to scare you. It might try to gross you out with its copious amount of blood and some disgusting moments involving surgery gone wrong, but despite its somewhat Gothic aesthetic and dark setting, it’s not scary. It doesn’t want to be, either, especially considering the vast majority of the film has its lines delivered in song, not in speech.
I liked the songs. I don’t consider myself a fan of musicals, only seeking out the different or really good ones, but I enjoyed listening to the ones presented here. They delivered all of the necessary information, they were quite catchy, and I could feel myself getting into a few of the more memorable ones. Keep in mind that you’re going to be hearing almost exclusively musical numbers while the film plays, as there are only a handful of lines delivered in non-musical format, so if you get a couple of songs in and you’re not enjoying it, it’s not going to get much better.
This isn’t a film for the squeamish, or for those looking for a generic, conventional approach to filmmaking. This is one of those weird movies that seems to get weirder as it goes on — simply for the sake of being different. It works, and I’m always appreciative of a filmmaker trying something different, so for me, this is the type of movie I cherish. I mean, how many movies cast Paris Hilton in a semi-serious role? This and The House of Wax, that’s what. And only the former is any good.
Semi-serious might be a bit of an understatement, as the theatrical nature of the film makes it feel far more campy than it probably should be. But that just adds to the bizarreness of the production, and works in its favor. It misses the opportunity to really criticize society like it probably could have — the whole repossession concept leaves open the possibility for social commentary — but I found that to be okay. Focusing more on the characters and the music was where the film wanted to lie, and it worked well here.
Repo! The Genetic Opera is a fascinating little film, one that is not for the faint of heart or those who want an easy watch. It’s a musical-horror mash up, and it’s absolutely worth seeing just to see how it all plays out. I liked the music, I liked the campy nature, and I enjoyed the majority of the time it played. It missed a chance to be something more, something deeper, but I can’t fault the film for having a narrower scope. It will be a cult classic in the near future, if it isn’t already, and I’m throwing my support behind it. Check it out.