Short Reviews: Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)


You wouldn’t expect a musical from the makers of the Saw films to be anything remotely Rodgers & Hammenstein-y and what you get instead is a demented rock-opera horror story about organ thievery. And a father’s love for his daughter.

Set in the dilapidated future, Repo… gives us a world where organ donation has become a singularity and everyone at one point or another has had to buy synthetic organs from the monopoly-holding GeneCo. The catch is that the prices are extortionate, and those who can’t make payments have their organs repossessed from their still-living bodies. One of these Repo Men is Nathan Wallace (Anthony Head) and he lives a double life of murderous repossessions, while also caring for his invalid teenage daughter Shiloh (Alexa Vega); Shiloh’s mother died of a rare blood disease which she now carries in her veins.

The two are connected to the head of GeneCo, Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino) as well as the face of the company, Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman), bbound to GeneCo for the use of her synthetic eyes, as well as Rotti’s three reprehensible children, Pavi, Luigi, and “Amber Sweet” (Paris Hilton) who only care about inheriting GeneCo’s wealth. Overseeing this plot is the twisted-MC GraveRobber (Terrance Zdunich), who makes his money extracting an addictive from repossessed-bodies and selling it on the black market.

While the plot is something of a clusterfuck, it can’t be said that Repo… isn’t an intriguing watch. The songs (and there are many) vary from “pretty decent” (Zydrate Anatomy) to “god awful” (Seventeen, although that’s kind of the point) with a few standouts along the way (Chase the Morning), but this isn’t a movie to be sold on only one of its many genres. It passes as a musical, a horror film, a dystopian-sci-fi story and a grim comedy, but it never really excels at any of them. This doesn’t matter too much though, because you sit fascinated as this bizarre oddity of a movie unfolds, and regardless of its flaws, you can’t say there’s many other movies out there like it.

The film is at its strongest when it’s dealing with its dramatic weight, which you would think would be pushed to the side for its other spectacle, but the story involving Nathan and Shiloh has some genuinely touching, as well as equally horrifying, moments and the film rightly centres them as the narrative focus. Blind Mag is also a captivating creature, although Sarah Brightman is probably the main reason for this, and it’s amazing how perfectly her voice contrasts with the film’s grisly subject matter and visuals.

This is a film made for and enjoyed by a definite niche audience, and I imagine if the plot summary above doesn’t interest you, neither will the movie. I’d recommend for it’s sheer uniqueness though, and it’s certainly not a waste of time, regardless of if you become a die-hard fan of it or not. It’s a visually-impressive film, looking like a grimy comic-book has sprung onto the screen from the blood-stained floor of a heavy metal club, and there’s clearly a lot of love for the final picture from everyone who was involved.

And if nothing else, if you’ve ever wanted to see Paris Hilton’s face literally tear itself off, this is the movie for you.

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