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DVD Review: Repo! The Genetic Opera

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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.

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About Jordan Richardson

  • danielle

    A few years ago The Deadbolt’s Troy Rogers was on the phone with director Darren Lynn Bousman of the Saw franchise (one of a few calls in recent years) to get the goods on the third sequel, Saw II. After the Bousman chat was over and Troy hung up the phone, that was the first I heard of Repo! The Genetic Opera. Although I was intrigued by the title and organ transplant storyline, I was shocked when I heard that Repo! was being made as a musical/cinematic opera. In a day and age when musical movies are about as rare as a comic book movie becoming the second biggest grossing film of all time, it was hard to imagine how Darren Bousman would pull off a futuristic horror set to music. Perhaps even more of a mind-blower was how Bousman could put former Phantom of the Opera diva Sarah Brightman in the same movie next to Paris Hilton. But that’s the type of uniquely original and bizarre level of extremes that makes Repo! The Genetic Opera stand out from the weekly slush-pile of unoriginal and unimaginative movies.

    At the time of our talk with Bousman, the Saw II director was putting the final touches on a brief Repo! trailer that he had cut to lure financiers to the project. It all seemed so bizarre since the director was riding high with the Saw franchise. But what we also learned that day was that Darren Lynn Bousman was looking well beyond the Saw films to make his mark as a director. What a better way to do it than with a musical bloodbath freak-out about worldwide organ failure and the rise of a biotech company that offers organ transplants at a price? And for anyone in the story who dares to default on their organ payments, they soon get slated for repossession with their fate in the hands of a dreaded Repo man.

    Sure Repo! The Genetic Opera will find its place in certain fan circles as a cult favorite on the same level of Rocky Horror Picture Show. But in today’s film market, it’s a bold step for a director whose name was becoming synonymous with one franchise only. In a bold creative endeavor, Bousman serves up a highly original modern throwback to the days of pure artistic and expressionist storytelling that’s almost non-existent today, except for the projects created by Baz Luhrmann and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Although it’s hard to rank Repo! among the great musical films of days gone by, or even the many elite productions on Broadway, given the bloody cheese factor you find in most B-level sci-fi and horror films, the dark future of a world stricken by plague and gone awry from our inability to control ourselves plays on your inner fears of an unknown tomorrow. It’s a new world reborn from the ashes of human remains and the almighty corporation controls both hope and survival. In this case, GenCo, the supposed savior of humanity, creates body parts for those in need. As you can tell by now, this isn’t your granddad’s Singing in the Rain.

    Here’s the deal, though: If you don’t like musicals, Repo! The Genetic Opera may be a tough sell. Almost the entire movie is “in tune”, so to speak. I could hit the stage theater every night and watch a musical, and I love Moulin Rouge, so I have a higher tolerance for movies like this. But any musical with Sarah Brightman isn’t going to be bad at all from either acting or vocal standpoints. I mean, Brightman’s one of two amazing halves that made Phantom of the Opera such a phenomenon. Featuring a cast that also includes Alexa Vega, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Anthony Stewart Head, Bill Moseley, Ogre, and Paul Sorvino, Repo! isn’t lacking in the performance department. And if you can handle how Bousman manages to give Paris Hilton a purpose, you’ll walk away knowing the pro celeb only added to the film’s unique weirdness


  • Jordan Richardson

    No, it’s merely a different review.

  • Dusty Somers

    I got an advance of the soundtrack months ago. Barely listenable. This dreck is nowhere near “Rocky Horror.”

    Did this even get a theatrical release outside of LA?

  • Jordan Richardson

    As far as I know, it only had wide release in the Czech Republic and in Spain.

  • c

    i personally love this movie. it combines gore and rock operas together, and the characters are amazing. i have no clue what you’re talking about

  • “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.”

    Boy you couldn’t be more wrong. Seventeen is not trying to weave in bits of Avril Lavigne, it’s weaving in bits of Joan Jett and Vega does a masterful job of capturing her vocal style.

    If you need further proof you need only look at who’s playing guitar, both on the soundtrack and in the scene, it’s Joan Jett.

    Now I will admit the scene does seem out of place with the rest of the film and breaks away from the “real world” of the rest of the movie, but on it’s own it stands quite nicely and Vega’s preformance was anything but terrorizing.

  • Jordan Richardson

    That Joan Jett “plays guitar” on the track does not change what the song sounded like to me. It’s a matter of opinion, Jason. I respect yours.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • Jordan Richardson

    By the way, I’m not the only one who thought the track sounded like an Avril Lavigne song. It seems that more than a few people considered it.

  • Claudia

    WOW.. never in my life I’ve seen such a pile of garbage written under the pseudo-title of “Review” – Jordan Richardson you certainly outdone yourself. But what else can be expected from someone who declares that “the only bright spot is Paris Hilton”.. LOL..

    Personally, I thought it was OK.. I like Rock, Opera, Sarah Brightman.. and went to see Joan Jett and the Blackhearts when I was only 16.. so all in all, it has enough entertainment value for me.

    Maybe Jordan and Paris should get together… won’t help the genetic pool.. but meh!.. it certainly has entertainment value to see them running around in circles and bumping their heads.. LOL

  • gina

    I really liked the movie hell i loved it.