In the not too distant future, an epidemic threatens humanity causing organ failures. GeneCo arises as the savior of the human race by developing organ replacements... for a price. You better be able to afford the operation too, or at least keep up with your payments, because now organ repossession is legal. Skip a payment, and the Repo man will chase you down with his scalpel to collect GeneCo's product!
Against this grim backdrop, another tale unfolds like a rare black orchid. Rotti Largo, founder of GeneCo and the current king of pop culture, discovers that even he can hold back Death only so long. With his own demise looming before him, Rotti moves to permanently dash the hopes of his hopelessly spoiled, corrupt and blood lusty children while also sealing the final revenge on his old rival, Dr. Nathan Wallace.
Nathan and Rotti both loved a young woman decades ago. Marni chose Nathan, and Rotti has never forgiven either of them. Marni developed a blood disorder during her pregnancy, and Nathan was forced to choose between saving the love of his life or their unborn daughter, Shilo. Seventeen years later, and Nathan is still reliving the nightmare of his loss as well as blaming himself. He keeps Shilo locked away in her tower room, far from the death, grime and danger found on the city streets. Obsessed with her safety and well-being, Nathan controls her through medication she believes she needs regularly to survive... until he can find a cure. Rotti worms his way insidiously into Shilo's life, with promises of a cure, but his selfish heart is plotting the ultimate revenge. Will the secrets he reveals to Shilo save her or destroy them all? One thing is certain, the final act of this Genetic Opera is gonna be bloody!
This film has all the qualities to ensure it's place amongst other cult classics... oddity, graphic scenes, unique perspective, moments of shoe-string budget appeal, and over the top acting. Reminiscent of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Sweeney Todd and Little Shop of Horrors, it is bound to appeal to a very specific audience, but also has the potential to reach beyond that target audience to other viewers. The darkness of Humanity is well displayed with a healthy balance of sarcasm and humor, so the film doesn't feel like it takes itself too seriously. At the heart of this Gothic opera, are the endlessly appealing themes of youth vs. age, shallow consumerism and the willing masses who would seemingly break their own leg to follow the fashionable dictates of society, as well as the age-old question of how much of our choices in life are dictated by our genetic makeup, how much by learned behavior, and how much genuinely stems from our unique self... and which has the most value?
There are a total of 58 songs in this musical, including instrumentals, and the tunes can be quite catchy as well thought provoking in their lyrics. One of my favorites appears at the end of the film, sung by Alexa Vega who was fascinating as the uncertainly rebellious Shilo. "Years...It's been so many years...Resenting the years, and my heredity. Oh, I have hated and loved you. I have hidden behind you, but I finally see that you I've mistaken for destiny, but the truth is my legacy is not up to my genes. True, Though the imprint is deep in me, it will always be up to me up to me." This Gothic Rapunzel goes through quite a journey to discover the wisdom and illumination of her own blossoming adulthood.
Terrance Zdunich as the Graverobber acts as her truest guide through the madness and chaos she finds awaiting her outside the safety of her tower. His voice instantly captured my attention from his first note, and the character's casual sarcasm, jovial self-interest, and mysterious need to reveal truth to Shilo make him as fascinating as Wonderland's Cheshire cat. Zdunich has only appeared before cameras once before in Chain of Souls (2001). He seems best known for his work as a storyboard artist from works ranging from Bedazzled (2000) to Into The Wild (2007). He co-wrote both the original play and the screenplay for Repo! The Genetic Opera along with Darren Smith, as well as composing for these productions. While he has kept behind the scenes til now, I for one am curious to see what else this obviously talented individual may go on to do.
Director Darren Lynn Bousman was reluctant to even audition Paris Hilton for the role of Amber Sweet, Rotti Largo's daughter. Appearing dressed perfectly as Amber, Hilton nailed her sound booth audition, capturing her the desired role. Amber, like many in this dark futuristic society, is obsessed with surgery as a fashion statement, and therefore addicted also to Zydrate, the current drug of choice for those needing relief from the agony following each operation.
She uses her body and looks as a commodity, and while she lusts after the position of "the voice of GeneCo" currently held by the much beloved and talented Blind Mag, she doesn't seem as interested in who inherits the company as her two bizarre and disturbing brothers. She spends most of her time strutting through the film in sex kitten outfits (many of which apparently came from Hilton's own closet) attempting to impress upon the world at large that her mediocre talent is worthy of media attention and pop culture worship. Is this acting, life imitating art, or type casting? Hmmm, hard to say, but it is undeniable that Hilton adequately fulfills the role.
Anthony Head of Buffy the Vamp-killer fame, is marvelous as Shilo's father trapped between his the light and dark of his own soul. Those who were never fans of the Buffy show might also be quite surprised at his considerable vocal skills. I found myself fascinated by how well he portrayed the many facets of the much disturbed and rather obsessed Nathan. He even manages to make the over-the-top number Thankless Job serve his purpose in showing the deep rift that splits the mind and soul of this character.
The talented vocals of soprano Sarah Brightman make the character of Blind Mag shine like the rare gem she is in the midst of this grimy and morally tarnished setting. Her film debut is captivating as she breathes life into the character and provides a welcome ray of short-lived positivity in this gloomy Gothic opera.
There are several technical errors sure to be spotted by seasoned viewers, moments where items inappropriately appear and reappear. These continuity errors only lend amusement and charm in a work that is destined to be such an instant cult classic. Rated for adult viewing only due to the themes of drug use, violence, gore, sexual content, and language, this film is certainly not for everyone. If you aren't offended by a someone driven to madness using another human being as a hand puppet to sing a duet, or are amused by the irony of a societal sheep testifying happily before the media that they had abused themselves to the point of kidney failure, but now "thanks to GeneCo, I can drink whatever I want!"... then this film is likely to appeal to you.
I know that I found this work's views on the inconsistencies of societal views and pop culture to be quite entertaining. This bizarre, lyrical splatterfest is perfect in its imperfection, ensuring adoration from cult classic fans. Uneven in pacing, difficult to follow as graphic panels switch from past to present with live characters singing their part of this snarled drama, it is none the less, quite an interesting and well told tale. Settings, cast, and writers have combined to present us with something both familiar and unique. Producers have stated that this is the middle of a planned trilogy, although nothing definite has been laid out as far as time frame or casting. One thing is certain though... you have never seen an opera quite like this before!
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age
What did you think of this review?
Repo! The Genetic Opera is a 2008 United States rock opera-musical film directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. The film is based on a play written and composed by Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich.
The film opened in a very limited release on November 7, 2008. Originally, it opened on seven screens in the United States cities of Pasadena; Chicago; Mobile; Charlotte; Kansas City; and Toronto and Ottawa in Canada. The film took in $3,250 per screen on its opening day. It also had a limited Canadian release, playing in Toronto from November 21-27, 2008. A 22-track soundtrack was released online on September 30, 2008, with an extended version containing 38 tracks released almost exclusively for download on February 20, 2009. The DVD and Blu-ray were released January 20, 2009.
To coincide with the film's release, Bousman, Smith, and Zdunich, as well as various cast members, did a touring version of the film. Principal cast and crew also did extensive Q&A sessions following each screening. Because of strong ticket sales, a second and third touring session were added, in addition to a British tour across four locations. A Repo! Road Show was announced on January 28 in 10 cities. This show will be similar to the Repo! Road Tour, except it will be almost completely fan-run.