Repo! The Genetic Opera
d. Darren Lynn Bousman / 2008 / USA / 97 mins
Based on an underground stage production, and in many ways a spiritual successor to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Repo! The Genetic Opera feels as if it’s been hand-crafted for a cult following. Most of you reading this will already have decided whether a gothic-horror musical about organ repossession, set in America’s future, directed by the man responsible for three Saw sequels and co-starring (of all people) Paris Hilton, excites or horrifies by the time this sentence has finished. In my own case, Repo! immediately manages to take hold of my affections; I’m one of those poor suckers who enjoys musicals with absolutely no trace of irony.
The cast all seem to be having a ball; Anthony Head in particular seems to be having a disturbing amount of fun, as his character Nathan Wallace (a specialist in organ repossession) eviscerates his victims, singin’ all the while. Paul Sorvino (probably best remembered for his role in Goodfellas) surprises with the quality of his voice and Paris Hilton seems game as an heiress who, addicted to the scalpel, finds her skin slip from her face once she has takes centre stage. The inexplicable acquisition of Sarah Brightman in the cast provides the real scene stealer in Blind Mag, an opera singer who’s surgically enhanced eyes are capable of providing her own backing singer.
Although it’s not high-budget entertainment, the variety of effects on display is impressive, and whilst the film’s schizophrenic nature provides plenty of low notes, there’s always something happening on-screen to either entice attentions or simply have a good laugh at. There’s an abundance of talent on display and those who enjoy B-movie shenanigans and lashings of grand-guignol humour will find a great deal to marvel at.
Whilst I’m full of enthusiasm for Repo!, this recommendation really does come with a pretty hefty warning label, and a large amount of reservations. It’s simply not a terribly good movie. On paper, and as a whole, it delivers all the thrills I love most about cinema, but in actuality it fails to deliver on the promises that its concept affords and not once does any form of intelligence manage to shine through the frenetic entanglement of clustered production design, messy scripting and frequently embarrassing performances.
Those who love the film will return again and again, spotting new things to scrutinise and deliberating over their favourite musical pieces. Be warned however, this film has the capability to leave one cold, and the desire to revisit events is clouded by the fact that few of the songs or scenes stand out without repeat viewings. Without necessary investment, the final act’s lack of visual stimuli fails to impress and can’t quite live up to the grand melodrama that it strives to achieve.
For the first time in one of my reviews, and for those of you who may be undecided as to whether it’s worth you time, I leave you with the trailer to give you a cursory glance of what to expect. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed Repo! and am loathe to discredit a film that strives for originality. Although, emotionally distancing, poorly constructed and underwhelming, its bombast, ambition and shamelessness are more than enough to steal my heart away.