Repo! The Genetic Opera
directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
starring Alexa Vega, Paul Soriano, Anthony Head, Sara Brightman, Paris Hilton
Lionsgate / Twisted Pictures
Let’s recall the elements of Grand Opera: The entire story is sung, the heroine must die, and the plot need not make much sense. Throw in a toe-tapping aria and you might have a hit. Repo! The Genetic Opera takes all these elements and brings them into the 21st century, but adds a few gallons of blood, actual eyeballs popping out along with livers, gall bladders, and the occasional large intestine.
Unlike a real opera, Repo! has enough actual plot so you never scratch your head or doze off. Its 2056 and the world is devastated by an organ-destroying plague. Life’s only salvation is replacement organs developed by Rotti Largo (Soriano). He offers flexible financing in this post-health-care-reform world, but he’s much tougher on repossession than Visa ever was. His chief enforcer is the bloody Dr. Nathan (Head). Nearly driven mad by a 17-year-old love triangle between himself, Largo, and the now deceased Marne, he keeps his daughter Shilo (Vega) locked away and poisoned just to the point of keeping her silent and at home. Now she’s wondering what the big evil world looks like, and uncovering the horrible truth about herself and her life, her mother, and the mysterious pop star Blind Mag (Brightman), whom Largo rescued. Surrounding the core of distorted family are the cartoonish Luigi Largo (Bill Moseley) and psycho Pavi Largo (Nivek Ogre). Paris Hilton makes an appearance as rival pop star Amber Sweet, and while her tabloid person is fairly unpleasant, she sounds pretty decent in this gory story.
The film is dark and claustrophobic. Most scenes appear to be filmed in a sepia tint, with the only saturated colors saved for the blood. While the budget on this film was a meager 8 million or so, director Bousman spent his money wisely and you never get that cheap horror feeling watching it. While the level of gore is high, the effects aren’t played for gut-wrenching nausea or scream-inducing horror. Rather, the tension is almost literary, and it’s easy to maintain an intellectual detachment without becoming distracted. Occasional flashes of humor pop up, with The Grave Robber (Terrance Tzudnik) acting as a spirit guide for both Shilo and the audience. The weakest element of Repo! is the music; it’s generally uninspired and with the exception of Brightman and Hilton, the singing is little more than competent. This is a thinking man’s horror, with strong ties to the classical forms and a nifty look that film school students will be copying for a few years.