Repo! The Genetic Opera
- Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
- Starring Anthony Stewart Head, Alexa Vega, Sarah Brightman, Paul Sorvino, Bill Moseley, Paris Hilton and Nivek Ogre
Set in the near future, a comic book paneled montage brings us up to speed about this Goth New World: A company called GeneCo has risen up to save humanity amidst an overwhelming rash of organ failures, offering replacement organ to save the afflicted, but at a price. Rotti Largo (Sorvino) is the head of GeneCo and the man responsible for the passing of legislation that allows for GeneCo to repossess their property if someone runs out of cash to pay for that heart transplant. Enter the Repo Men, who cut the organs directly from your body with no remorse, fearsome specters of the night.
The wholesale availability of organs and the vanity of cosmetic surgery reaches insane proportions, with a subculture developing that is addicted to both surgery and a drug harvested by GraveRobbers called Zydrate. Culled from the brains of the dead, it eases the pain of recovery that these addicts suffer.
Shilo (Vega) is a 17 yr old girl with a blood disease that was passed to her from her deceased mother, who died during childbirth. She lives under literal lock and key with her father Nathan (Head), who will do anything to protect her from the outside world now that he’s lost his wife. Shilo sneaks out of her house via a secret tunnel beneath the stairs that leads into her mother’s mausoleum (?). She runs into GraveRobber harvesting Zydrate in the cemetary outside, and he lures the GenCops after them. Shilo passes out from her condition as the GenCops descend on her, but a Repo Man steps in and takes her away.
She awakes back at home, and Nathan assures her that she was hallucinating, but he is in fact the Repo Man, a gruesome fact that he’s kept hidden from his daughter. More comic imagery fills in backstory, in which Nathan worked for Rotti in a more legit medical capacity, until Rotti’s lover Marni fell for him Nathan. Rotti took revenge when Marni fell ill, tainting Nathan’s cure and convincing him that he’d killed his wife. He was coerced into the life of a Repo Man, though he certainly seems to get some amount of savage pleasure out of his work, cutting out hearts and tearing out spines with precision.
Rotti himself is dying, having saved the world with his genetic engineering, he himself is on the verge of death and greatly regretting the pack of children he’s left with to leave his fortune to. Luigi (Moseley) is a rageaholic, given to violence at the flip of a switch, Amber Sweet (Hilton) is publicly addicted to surgery and the Zydrate habits that go along with it, and Pavi (Ogre), well he’s just freaking weird. He wears the faces of others stapled over his own like a latter day Leatherface, it’s very disconcerting.
The Genetic Opera is entertainment for the masses brought to you by GeneCo, and the star of the show, Blind Mag (Brightman) is poised to retire. What she isn’t exactly prepared for is forfeiting her synthetic eyes that GeneCo so graciously supplied her with many years ago.
Blind Mag is Godmother to Shilo, who she thought died along with Marni in childbirth, and when Mag discovers that she’s alive, Shilo is determined to see her final performance.
Rotti on the other hand also has designs on Shilo, who seems the more fitting heir for his fortune considering what his biological children are like, and you know that Nathan isn’t going to take something like this lying down after spending 17 years chopping people up like sushi just to protect his daughter and keep her safe.
The film is gorgeous to behold, a color saturated world of neon and Gothic beauty where the sun never seems to shine, set in a crumbling city composed primarily of shadowy alleys populated with people skulking about in leather. The music is strangely fitting when mixed into the operatic singing, I would’ve never assumed that the heavy Industrial beats would make sense with Sarah Brightman’s soprano, but it really works.
The set pieces are beautiful in their decay, and a few clunky turns of phrase in the lyrics aside, the musical bits are all enjoyable and have stuck in my head after the film, this is a soundtrack I can definitely see picking up as well. All of the assembled cast sing quite well in their roles, though Moseley seems to be doing little more than shouting his lines, but given his anger-fuelled character, perhaps this was an intentional decision.
I would just note (for the unaware) that the film is composed entirely in song, so there are very few exchanges that happen between the characters that aren’t part of a musical number of some sort. If you can’t stand something like Rocky Horror, which has expositional bits in between the catchy musical numbers, you’ll most likely hate this film.
I was quite happy with it, and would recommend this to horror fans or someone who wants to see something completely different than they seen before.
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