Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Repo! The Genetic Opera (Bousman, 2008)

From Saw II, III and VI director Darren Lynn Bousman and originally a stage play, Repo! The Genetic Opera is a rock-opera set in 2056. Setting the scene with some snazzy comic book-style graphics, something used throughout the movie as a storytelling device, after an epidemic of organ failure Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino) set up GeneCo, a company which offers replacement organs. However, they come at a price - if the recipient is unable to keep up their repayments, the Repo Man comes to repossess their organs. 17 year old Shilo (Alexa Vega) is kept under house arrest by her father Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head) due to her apparent blood disease inherited from her dead mother, Marni. Unbeknownst to Shilo, her father is leading a double life, and is actually the fearsome Repo Man.

Largo discovers he is dying, and as an ex-lover of Marni, he pinpoints Shilo as a possible heir to GeneCo, rather than his own offspring, Luigi (Bill Moseley), Amber (Paris Hilton) and Pavi (Nivek Ogre) and offers her a cure for her blood disease. Her estranged godmother, operatic superstar Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman) urges her not to take up the offer in fear of Shilo making the same mistakes that she did - when GeneCo gave her new eyes, she fell under the control of Largo, trapped in a contract to be the voice of GeneCo.

The whole story is played out through song, with a mixing of opera with industrial sound to create a unique rock opera, with the final scenes part of the GeneCo's 'Genetic Opera' show, something of a fucked up Moulin Rouge. We're also given narration by a Grave Robber (Terrance Zdunich), who we see straightaway to introduce the Repo Man in 'Genetic Repo Man' and who gives the backstory slickly in '21st Century Cure'. The comic-book style illustrations create some variety and give a modern take on the operatic melodrama.

Despite a comparitively modest budget of $8.5million, the visuals are incredible, from the futuristic dystopia to the gothic interiors of Nathan and Shilo's home. The cinematography fits in with the comic-book aesthetic with colour-saturated bright cinematography. The costume choices are wonderfully theatrical, with corsets and gothic attire mixed with futuristic elements and creepy gas masks, alongside Shilo's gothic style and the badass leather gear and mask of the Repo Man.

The strength of the ensemble cast is essential to the movie, and don't fail to disappoint, and the chorus prove essential, particularly in standout song 'Zydrate Anatomy', a catchy introduction to backstreet surgery and the drug Zydrate. The voices range from Sorvino's operatic tones to Head's rockier vocal delivery. Most of the cast have musical backgrounds of some kind, notably Brightman, who is one of the best selling opera artists - and as a side note, looks amazing considering she's 50. Best known for her appearances in the Spy Kids franchise, Vega plays 17 year old Shilo, who despite being bald and blood-diseased, still has plenty of good old teenage angst. 'Seventeen' is the perfect girly rock and roll song, and even festures Joan Jett as the bassist in the sequence in which Shilo's bedroom is turned into her very own rock concert with awesome lighting and smoke machines. 

As for the rest of the cast, ever since Giles' moonlighting acoustic tendencies in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I've always been a massive fan of Anthony Head - so this was rather an aural delight, with his incredible vocal skills put to easily the best use in his career. Switching from tortured, lonely and overly posessive father to the psychopathic Repo Man, particularly in his performance Legal Assassin, he creates a split-personality man on the edge, quite frankly terrifying in his madness. Running around during 'Thankless Job', a side of his personality (which he later describes as 'the monster') clearly revels in his work. The scenes of violence pull no punches, and we see organs being brutally ripped from the living bodies of Repo Man's victims, with plenty of stylistically over-bright crimson blood. This movie doesn't hold back on the gore - and when considering Bousman's involvement with the Saw franchise, this is unsurprising.

As Amber Sweet, Paris Hilton stands up well, playing a bratty, knife-addicted diva, perhaps not far removed from her general persona, but in this case her caricatured version of this character works well, and she can actually hold a tune pretty well and gives a lot to the role. A special mentions has to be given to Pavi (Nivek Ogre, who sings in Skinny Puppy), who wears womens faces to cover his own scarred skin, creating something that looks incredibly freakish and monstrous looking. Oh, and it's got Bill Moseley as a sociopathic, agressive brother with an obsessive compulsion to change his shirt on a regular basis.

Repo! The Genetic Opera offers something the mainstream film market fails to offer - uniqueness. The mishmash of many different musical and visual styles makes it exciting and the strong cast pull off the fast-paced, ever-changing storyline. Mixing horror, sci-fi and opera, it's Rocky Horror meets Saw meets Blade Runner, a postmodern feast of visuals and sound - a perfect cult classic. 



  1. Nice review, definitely agree with your Rocky Horror meets Saw meets Blade Runner comment!

    Anthony Head is amaaazing in this - a real joy to watch. In fact, the entire cast are pretty decent and even Paris Hilton sort of manages acting. Bill Moseley will always remain a firm favourite though.

    Also, I've never known a bald woman appear quite as attractive as Shilo.

  2. Thanks! :) I love Anthony Head, have done ever since Buffy, so to see him in something like this is amazing! And Bill Moseley <3 It's also funny to think Alexa Vega was in Spy Kids...definitely a big move for her!

  3. This one managed to grab my attention after I watched "Repo Men" and read a little about it, but I never really considered watching it. Your review definitely changed that. I'll be giving it a go asap.

  4. Awesome :D I want to watch Repo Men actually, as I nearly watched it at the cinema, any good?

  5. Nope, not really. I can't really speak for anyone but myself, but I personally hated it. It was all over the place. Still worth a watch, if only to see and decide for yourself.

  6. Rocky Horror meets Saw meets Bladerunner--I couldn't think of a more appropriate comparison. I have a weakness for comic book-esque films, gore, and musical numbers, so this one is right up my alley. Saw it opening day in the theater and it was one of the best theater experiences I've ever had. Just proved to me that any fan of Repo! The Genetic Opera is a good soul with a sick sense of humor. Great review, love this movie.

  7. Great review! This was a blast! Anthony Heald was excellent.