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Repo! The Genetic Opera

Movie Review

Repo! The Genetic Opera


When I first heard of Repo! The Genetic Opera, it was through an invitation to go see it from someone I know who worked on it. It didn't have a big Hollywood premier, so there was a little cast and crew gathering at one of the shows when it opened on that friday night.


Walking into the theater, I saw a movie poster for it, and that was the first image or any real exposure to the film I'd had. I'd never heard of it. Never saw a trailer. A commercial. Didn't read a review. Didn't hear any of its music. It's music is a significant statement, because unexpectedly, it was a musical. And not just a musical, but an OPERA. There aren't any spoken lines in the entire movie. It's all singing!


Repo!, is a slasher film, goth/industrial opera that totally blew me away. And from what I've come to learn, I seem to be the only person on Earth who loved this movie. An adaptation of an existing stage play, the story takes place in a future where massive genetic organ failure is a world-wide pandemic. An industry, monopolized by GeneCo, has fabricated replacement organs. For a price of course, and when you miss a payment, they send out the Repo Man to forcefully remove the organs from you.


The main character is Shilo (impressively played by Spy Kid Alexa Vega), a teenager who has a congenital problem that forces her to live in isolation in her sterile bedroom. Her single father, played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Anthony Stewart Head, is classically over-protective and that's where the initial conflict begins.


The world is a rich, visually stylized future of self loathing gothic punk and high tech industrial technology. For as vast as the world appears, the story only skates through a small part, but essentially covers the core of the culture. Like a soap opera (get it?), all the main characters interweave and cross the paths of all the same secondary characters, the common focus of which are the various relationships everyone has with the Repo Man.


Repo! The Genetic Opera

Paul Sorvino plays the head of GeneCo, with a perfectly cast trio of back stabbing children, which include a flesh-masked son played by Ogre (of the band Skinny Puppy), a second son, infatuated with his own sister, played by horror veteran Bill Moseley, and his plastic surgery addicted sister, played by Paris Hilton.


For as much as I was blown away by the sheer visual spectacle and from what I thought was a pitch-perfect style of music that every rivet head with a Dracula costume is going to add to their halloween mix, it has some stunning flaws. Almost all of which are technical and so, distracting. First off, the opening shot of the film is out of sync. Or maybe it's not, because it is so off I actually assumed that the song being sung was re-recorded in post because it doesn't match the lip sync at all. But this sync issue returns at a couple of other moments in the film. The cinematography is breath taking, and blends just a fantastic production design into an otherworldly feel. But then up will pop a shot that is COMPLETELY OUT OF FOCUS.


Lastly, and what I found most distracting, were the comic book styled panel illustrations that package the film and were used as transitional tools. They were just plain amateurish, like they had an intern rush them out by tracing photographs on a light table. For a film that is so successfully stylized they were an awkward addition that the film would probably have been better without.


All of these odd flaws may actually be what ended up selling me on this film in the end. It is so obvious a project of love, that I felt I could see the fingerprints of the filmmakers like it was a carefully crafted student film. A film that actually may have surpassed the limits of its resources. Unfortunately those resources were in the millions of dollars and most people don't recognize that as having limits.