In the past decade Hollywood has grown fond of making film adaptations of musicals. Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Producers all have had their time to shine, but none have offered the mixture of fun and outrageousness that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was able to. For years, musical film fans have waited for a film they could latch on to and call their own. Repo! The Genetic Opera is that film. A futuristic cautionary tale of greed and revenge, the folks behind Repo! have created a film that somehow has flown under the radar. If there’s any justice in the movie world, it will be flying into every theater at midnight for years to come.
Repo! is set in 2056 where the world is forced to deal with a massive epidemic, leaving most with organ failure. Enter Geneco, a biotech company willing to offer salvation. But there’s a heavy price to pay, as all the characters learn, and those who don’t make good on their payments have their organs repossessed, facing the wrath of menacing Repo Men.
The central character, Shilo Wallace (Alexa Vega), is a seventeen year old girl weakened by a life threatening disease. Sheltered by her father from a world that sees surgery and the painkilling Zydrate as bliss, she becomes curious about the story of her family. Lured in by the possibility of a cure for her illness and the glamorous Genetic Opera, Shilo looks to break from her family bonds and claim her destiny. Meanwhile, Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino) struggles to come to terms with his own mortality. Left with few options or acceptable heirs, Largo chooses to take matters into his own hands in deciding who will be the heir to his ruthless empire.
The audience’s reception to Repo! at Fantastic Fest was sensational and there isn’t a film more deserving of it. Fans waiting in line were shouting the lyrics to “Zydrate Anatomy”, one of the infectious songs in the film. Repo! was so well received that it received an additional screening on the night of the premiere, and many moviegoers were so impressed they attended both screenings.
The cast of Repo! is a who’s who in pop culture, showcasing the talents of Anthony Head (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), singer Sarah Brightman, Skinny Puppy vocalist Nivek Ogre, and even Paris Hilton all play characters that possess individual styles and memorable stories. Throw in the heavyweight talent and vocals of Paul Sorvino, a breakthrough performance from Alexa Vega, and the cast of Repo! can stand toe to toe with other cult classic casts like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Director Darren Bousman (Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV) masterfully interconnects characters in a complex tale of love and loss with seeming ease. Bousman’s ability to achieve such a vision with virtually no budget in Hollywood terms makes the feat even more impressive. The choices to weave comic illustrations into the narrative help to move the story forward and solve issues that otherwise might have been present given the financial limitations.The Saw franchise displayed Bousman’s knack for the dark and disturbing, but Repo! has put him on a whole different level. Bousman paints a visual landscape that is one of a kind.
Making an opera entertaining to a mainstream audience is a daunting task, but somehow the writers (Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich) pull it off. The story behind the story is just as impressive, as the journey to the big screen for Repo! was nine years long. Smith and Zdunich honor the structure of an opera but never compromise their own world. The result is a labor of love that is worthy of all the praise it will receive and then some.
Zdunich has his hands all over the film, also serving as the narrator Grave-Robber and illustrator for the film. His performance as the Grave-Robber is only one of the characters people came dressed as. Imagine if The Lord of The Ring’s Legolas put down the bow and arrow and decided to pick up a syringe.
But no musical is complete without a score and musical producer Joseph Bishara is the man behind the madness .The soundtrack of Repo! is one you could put on your iPod and play repeatedly. We should all be so lucky as to have the talent of Sarah Brightman, Joan Jett, and Poe working with us. Bishara honors that opportunity and finds a way to create a completely novel style of rock opera.
Repo! may not be for everyone and that’s okay. Plenty of people hated the theatricality of bands like Kiss or the flamboyant behavior of Tim Curry as Dr. Frankenfurter. That didn’t stop those who loved it from turning them into cult heroes. In an age of cookie cutter films not worth our time, Repo! is a refreshing story that takes risks and reminds us what it’s like to, gasp, have a good time at the movies! Outlandish, outrageous, and above all things outstanding, it’s time for Repo! The Genetic Opera to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.