Repo! The Genetic Opera is a 2008 Horror-Rock Opera. Opera being a dramatic performance combining text (libretto), music, typically having complex story lines and large vibrant dramatic characters, Repo! The Genetic Opera delivers on every single one of these. Repo! failed hard in theaters grossing less than one percent of its 8.5 million dollar budget, Repo! was also widely panned by critics. Since its release it has garnered a small cult following with midnight showings much like its cult classic cousin The Rock Horror Picture Show. Which oddly enough was also a box office failure.
With a complex plot I’m only going to do a very light description of the over all plot. In the somewhat near future a pandemic of organ failure causes a world wide crisis. Genco comes to the worlds aid providing organs for sale. With exorbitant prices people are forced into getting organ financing. Those who fail to keep up on payments get their organs repossessed. Genco also sells a drug called Zydrate that’s a highly addictive painkiller. A cheap version is sold by grave robbers that extract the drug from corpses. The setting of Repo! is just about as dystopian as one can get. Shilo (played by Alexa Vega) and her father Nathan Wallace (played by Anthony Stewart Head) are pulled into the machinations of Genco’s Ceo and founder who is also Nathans employer Rotti Largo and his deranged family (played by Paul Sorvino).
The main cast Vega, Head, Sorvino and Sarah Brightman (she portrays Blind Mag an opera singer and godmother to Shilo) performances are all top notch. The singing is fantastic from all of them, which is no surprise given the background of all them within musical theater. Sarah Brightman is known for originating the role of Christine Daae in the 1984 West End debut of Phantom of the Opera, a role that was written for her. Anthony Stewert Head played as Frank N. Furter(The Antagonist of Rocky Horror Picture Show) at Piccadilly Theater in London from 1990-1991. Head does an excellent job portraying a tormented man plagued by two different personalities both a loving father and that of a vicious killer.Paul Sorvino is a classically trained opera singer and studied at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Alexa Vegas keeps up with all of them which really is saying a lot. Other performances of note is that of Terrance Zdunich (as The Grave robber) who is also one of writers/composers and Paris Hilton (as Amber Sweet).
Now I need to stop here for a moment. Paris Hilton won a worst supporting actress at the 29th Golden Raspberry Awards for this role. Sure she’s basically playing herself, a spoiled heiress. But she fought for this role having been turned down initially for auditions by director Darren Lynn Bousman out fear of back lash for stunt casting. Further more much of costumes worn by her and support group members are in fact Paris Hiltons own personal clothing. What more did they want out of her?
All that said the rest of the cast performance is actually very dismal. Particularly the performances Bill Moseley and Nivek Ogre (who play Luigi and Pavi Largo respectively). They do a well enough job I suppose but are so far out shined by the rest of the cast that their respective performances come off as bland and cumbersome. Both men have small roles so they never have the screen time to really bring it down enough to be much more than a mild annoyance.
With so many great songs there are few stand outs. Primarily the duet between Head and Vega at the end of the film “I Didn’t Know I’d Love You So Much” which was originally a lullaby that Darren Smith (the other composer of this film) sang to his son. Also some other songs of note are Zydrate Anatomy, Chase the Morning and Seventeen. The latter of which features Joan Jett in an uncredited cameo). The soundtrack is catchy, memorable and infectious again much like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Repo! has a very… unique visual style. It’s sort of cyberpunk meets goth that is than dragged through the poverty stricken streets of a city built on its dead. If any part of that sounds unappealing to you this film might not hold the same appeal for you as it does for me. Also very much in the vain of modern horror Repo! does not shy away from gore. There are tons of it, whole buckets of it in fact. The whole city must reek of death and that really comes through. The whole set was also built on a single sound stage. I find that impressive and worth noting.
So now for my final opinion on Repo! The Genetic Opera the new cult darling? It comes off incredible with great performances and a deep moving plot. Repo! is a bit jarring the first time you watch but grows better with subsequent viewings. So while I hold it in high regard it is in no way going to appeal to everyone. So at the end of the day Repo! The Genetic Opera gets 9/10. While it touches on perfection it’s still to flawed to obtain it.
On a final note Repo! The Genetic Opera is apparently part of a planned trilogy with this film being the middle. Initially planned was for Repo! to followed by a prequel. After that a sequel would wrap up the story lines from The Genetic Opera. Much of the principle cast have displayed interest in returning for the subsequent films. These films have no plans for development due the poor performance at he box office. So if you enjoy Repo! spread the word tell your friends about. We get a big enough fan base and these films might actually get made. Hey it worked for Firefly.