Here we have something of an odd specimen. In most musical productions, the idea is to either use the songs for comedic effect or to underscore the powerful emotions in play during a given scene. While Repo! The Genetic Opera certainly takes its material seriously, there’s also a feeling that it knows how many mainstream audience members will receive it. It’s possible that it will either make the production seem wonderfully self-aware or disappointingly pretentious. The only way to know for sure, in keeping with its theme and mood, is to slice this sexy specimen open and tear its bloody guts out.
It’s the future, and life sucks. Life sucks mostly because there’s been a world-wide epidemic of organ failure caused by industrial waste or some other disaster. As people die in droves, evil corporation GeneCo emerges with a solution: custom-made replacement organs available at reasonable prices to the consumer, and an addictive surgical aid called Zydrate that keeps the organs in your body and you in a pleasant state of mind. Financing is available, but if you can’t make your payments, GeneCo sends a Repo Man to reclaim their property from you. It’s 2062, and GeneCo’s CEO, Rotti Largo, must choose an heir from among his three despicable children while his biggest & baddest Repo Man, Nathan Wallace, tries to protect his sickly daughter Shilo from the dark and dangerous world outside her bedroom window, a world she’s never experienced in all of her seventeen years.
One of the best things the film has going for it is its music. Terrence Zdunich put together most of the songs, and as the Greek Chorus-style narrator known only as Grave-Robber, he lays a lot of convincing passion and tongue-in-cheek fun on us. Anthony Steward Head, Paul Sorvino and the timelessly talented Sarah Brightman do much of the emotional heavy lifting while Bill Moseley, Ogre and a breathy and surprisingly well-voiced Paris Hilton slip in for some comic relief. The star is Alexa Vega, however, who makes her little-girl-growing-up story the central attraction of the affair, outside of all the artful surgery and shameless eye candy.
Yeah… Shilo’s dad ain’t exactly a nice guy.
Coming to us as it does from the hands that helped craft the Saw series, to call Repo! The Genetic Opera ‘gorn’ is a bit of an understatement. And yet, there’s enough visual appeal in both its male and female cast members that the blood & guts never completely derail the goings-on. It juxtaposes undeniable beauty with callous cruelty and sadistic violence. Being disgusting and sexy at the same time isn’t an easy feat, but Repo! somehow manages to pull it off. It’s impressive for that if nothing else.
Repo! also manages to pull off being camp while letting its cast convey some actual emotions. Sure, it’s mostly done in song so it’s melodramatic and over-the-top half the time, but it never strays too far into the completely-serious territory that dooms other would-be camp flicks like Masters of the Universe. However, it also doesn’t have the reckless abandon of campy classics like Flash Gordon. The result is a quasi-serious sometimes-amusing musical gorn flick that plays like the Saw boys putting on a production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
One of the coolest narrators ever.
Speaking of Rocky Horror, Repo! might be that infamous flick’s 21st-century successor. Between the timbre of the music, the presence of underground stars like Terrence & Ogre and the campy, over-the-top nature of the entire production, it should be no wonder that Repo! has gained something of a cult following, complete with showings at local theatres, encouraged audience participation and live emulation of the performances. While it’s preoccupation with gorn and overwhelmingly dark tone didn’t exactly make it a hit with critics or even the major box office, there’s something endearing about it that keeps in the hearts and minds of many die-hard fans.
In other words, Repo! the Genetic Opera is kind of like a stray cat taken in by a friend. Sure, it’s kinda cute and purrs at you appealingly when you show up, but its coat is a little on the mangy side and your friend really needs to get it to a vet. If you’re a cat person, you’re still going to scratch it behind the ears and let it rub up on your leg, and if you’re not you’re going to refuse to step foot in your friend’s place again until they clean the animal. Repo! the Genetic Opera is not for everyone, but its songs can worm their way into your ears easily and the characters are extremely memorable. Check it out on Netflix Instant if it sounds up your alley, but beware. As many fans can attest, the material introduced within the film can be quite addictive. We should just be thankful that it doesn’t come in a little glass vial.
Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.