Annoying, abrasive, and awful, Repo! The Genetic Opera is one of the worst films I’ve seen in a long time. Directed by Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV filmmaker Darren Lynn Bousman, Repo! is an attempt at a rock opera based on material written by Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich. Containing 64 “songs” according to Bousman, the movie meshes music with a sci-fi/horror plot in an attempt to woo goth kids to the world of “opera.”
Billed as a “cult movie,” Repo! The Genetic Opera stars Alexa Vega as Shilo Wallace. Shilo’s a 17-year-old girl suffering from a blood disorder and living in a horrific future. A giant corporation, GeneCo, has sprung up to meet the needs of an unusually high volume of organ failure by providing loans to patients in need. The catch is that if the patients cannot pay back their loans, a Repo Man is sent to repossess the organ. The boss of GeneCo is Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino) and he’s dying. Before he passes on, however, he needs to find a worthy heir to GeneCo. Rotti’s lousy kids aren’t very suitable, either.
Meanwhile, Shilo’s father Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head) is raising his daughter alone after the death of his wife and her mother. He holds himself responsible, but it was actually the fault of a jealous Rotti. Nathan doubles as the head Repo Man, working for Rotti and scooping organs out of patients who can’t pay up. Shilo’s godmother, Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman), is Rotti’s property and set for repossession after delivering her final performance for GeneCo.
Convoluted as the story is, it’s made even worse by Bousman’s direction, the revolting songs, the horrible performances, and the senseless script. Even the lighting is dreadful, with the stab at making things look dark obscuring the faces of the performers and serving to further remove any human element from Repo! The Genetic Opera.
Musically, this movie’s a mess. Dubbed by the filmmakers as a unique opera experience and “not your parents’ opera,” this farce shares only the commission of sustained singing with the art form of opera. Throwing a few high or long notes around does not an opera make, even if it is imagined that the inclusion of Brightman adds some much-needed integrity. Instead, the songs are a hodgepodge of unsightly industrial rock and a sliced meat platter of other musical genres. The vocals are commonly frightful and even the typically dependable Brightman sounds ghastly.
The songs themselves are idiotic blurbs of music, lacking construction and pacing. Performers half-sing and half-speak lines in an attempt to match cadence, but it comes out sounding silly and forced. Vega is perhaps the biggest culprit of bad singing in the bunch, with an absolutely terrorizing “Seventeen” solo performance attempting to weave bits of Avril Lavigne faux-punk with musical theatre. Sorvino is apparently an able opera singer, but his contributions are flat-out dull.
In terms of acting, it doesn’t get much better than the singing. Vega is pretty poor as Shilo and the rest of the cast doesn’t round out well in support of her. The only bright spot is Paris Hilton…the only bright spot is Paris Hilton. Wow.
Repo! The Genetic Opera doesn’t just suffer from its performances and awful music. It also suffers from its horrific direction, cinematography, costumes, and set design. Costumes feel ripped from Hot Topic, while set designs seem geared towards presenting normal landscapes with a faintly darker edge and a splash of irksome holograms with a chandelier or two. The attempt at leeching from Tim Burton falls flat and Bousman’s “unique take” simply isn’t. The gore effects are cartoonish and stupid, too.
I could go on about Repo! The Genetic Opera, but I’ve had my fill. Bousman’s work in the torture porn genre clearly extends to his take on musical theatre, creating a rock opera that neither rocks nor mines the art form of opera. Instead, it is absolute crap.
The DVD features a "From Stage to Screen" featurette in which Smith and Zdunich explain how they conned a studio into transforming ten minutes of rock opera into a 97-minute catastrophe. There are also a pair of audio commentaries and a featurette describing the creation of the Repo Man's character and look.