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. 


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Just a little update...

I apologise for the lack of stuff recently, I've been embarking on the dreaded dissertation and generally running around the country and having general adventures!
Coming Soon!

Plus some TV related titbits!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)

This could well be the most pointless review in existence - chances are, you've all seen it (if you haven't, shame on you!). And read umpteen million reviews about it. But tonight, for the first time in quite a while, I rewatched one of the movies that will always have a lasting impression on me - and memories of hiding behind a pillow whilst watching it in my early teenage years. So take this as more of an appreciation, rather than a review, if you will. And it'll also be quite short. And would have perhaps been more appropriate a few days ago. But I'm rarely appropriate, even at the best of times.

The film opens with a young Michael Myers killing his older sister - all shown from his POV, without knowing the viewpoint is that of a six year old boy, which makes it all the more disturbing when he is revealed. And, a horror film staple, we even get to see some boobies before the movie's even properly started. Hooray! Fast-forward to fifteen years later, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), Michael's psychiatrist, is on his way to the institution Michael has spent the last decade and a half in, but finds that his patient has escaped. Michael makes his way to Haddonsfield, his old hometown, and begins to stalk local teenager Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends. On Halloween night, whilst Laurie is babysitting, Michael watches...

The film may not exhibit the most perfectionist style of filmmaking - with notable continuity errors and general goofs (how many did you spot?). However, there are some brilliant choices made with the shooting - from the shaky camerawork, to the POV shots, giving a genuinely creepy, voyeuristic feel...and the way Michael appears and disappears seamlessly in the background of shots...eerie as fuck. One thing every true classic horror movie needs is a score - check! The repeated Halloween theme is a perfect contribution to the tension-building moments.

Taking inspiration from Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), Halloween competently builds tension - in a similar way to the former, through subtleties rather than the constant, in your face jumpy moments commonplace in many modern 'slashers'. Although it has all the elements seen in your common slasher, it goes beyond that, and is far, far scarier than the gorefests that followed. Despite being over 30 years old, it hasn't become dated and stands the test of time as a true classic horror. At fourteen, I hid behind my pillow - and now at twenty two, I was still tempted to do the same...