I’ve been rewatching some of my favorite movies from my teenage years lately, including an off-the-wall one called Repo: The Genetic Opera. After watching it last night, I can safely say the film is a lot weirder than I remembered.
Not that that’s a bad thing, I’m a fan of everything weird and strange. Still… something that’s interesting about weirdness in the Repo sense is that sometimes films become more likable over time simply because they’re strange.
There’s value in watching films like that, rewatching to catch anything you might have missed, and especially in sharing those films with your friends to see their reaction. Because many of my friends have already seen Repo: The Genetic Opera, I figured why not talk a bit about it here in a Cortex post.
Note that if you haven’t seen the film, I’m going to share some minor spoilers. Nothing huge that’ll ruin the movie for you though, so if you’re curious I definitely say check it out, even if only to get a better idea as to what the heck this movie is.
What is Repo: The Genetic Opera?
Repo: The Genetic Opera, released in 2008, was a massive flop for Saw director Darren Lynn Bousman. However, in a similar vein as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or perhaps like The Room or the Shrek movies, Repo has garnered a solid cult following over the years.
Repo was marketed as a “rock opera” so first and foremost, the film is a musical both conventional and unconventional. The music genre being rock is a stellar idea in and of itself, and there are some fantastic tracks on offer like Zydrate Anatomy.
However, part of the problem with the film as cited in many of its poor reviews is the fact there’s almost 0 spoken dialogue. It’s all sung, the whole thing, and it’s exactly as “hit or miss” as you might think.
Some of it really works, and some of it… well, really doesn’t.
That aside, what’s being sung about? Well, the core premise of Repo centers around a world in which mass organ failure and death have created a new market of organ financing as a way to cheat death, and organ repossessions if you fail to make a payment after 90 days.
Heading the company responsible for financing organs to people, and repossessing them via murder, is GeneCo founder and all-around terrible rich person Rotti Largo played by the legendary Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas).
Outside of being an evil businessman who sings opera and has others do his dirty work for him, he’s also a terrible father with three adult children he finds disappointing.
Among these are Luigi played by Bill Moseley (House of 1000 Corpses) who stabs people when he’s angry, Amber Sweet played by Paris Hilton (yes, that Paris Hilton) who’s addicted to plastic surgery and the drug given during surgery called Zydrate, as well as Pavi played by Kevin ‘ohGr’ Ogilvie from the band Skinny Puppy who likes to steal women’s faces and wear them.
The “why” of why each of these characters are so uniquely awful isn’t explained in-depth, so you’ll have to draw your own conclusions. Unlike the Largo family though, there’s another family that Repo: The Genetic Opera focuses on that does get some proper backstory, and that is the family of GeneCo’s head repo man Nathan Wallace played by Anthony Stewart Head (Buffy The Vampire Slayer).
Nathan’s wife Marni died in childbirth, leaving him a single father of Shilo played by Alexa Vega (Spy Kids). When the film catches up with these two, Shilo is 17 and frustrated over being sick and locked away in the house so her goal is pretty simple, as she sings it, "Oh I want to go outside... outside."
Although, something to point out here is that she isn’t really locked in the house as it’s shown a number of times in the movie that she has ways to break out so I’m not sure what’s going on there unless it's a metaphor for being trapped under an oppressive, overprotective parent.
In that sense, it makes sense. But yeah, as you can probably infer at this point, there are a number of issues writing and plot wise in the film that would take several pages to explain in terms of what went wrong and where.
Suffice to say that if you check out the film, don’t expect it to make perfect sense. Where it shines are in some of its music and in having a big "AAA" cast packed into a small side project film, including famous musicians like singer Sarah Brightman.
The setting and atmosphere are also noteworthy, as are some of the topics the film leaves you contemplating after the credits roll, even if it doesn’t dig too deep into them itself.
If the idea of Repo sounds familiar but you can’t quite place it, there was also a similar film released two years after Repo in 2010 called “Repo Men” starring Jude Law that tries to dabble with the same topics and does an equally poor job at it.
Of the two films, I feel like there’s more value in Repo: The Genetic Opera given its unique approach, and again, how it’s improved entertainment wise over time due to how bafflingly bizarre it is.
I don't want to ruin the surprise of it all, but to give you a little taste... there’s a scene where Paris Hilton’s face falls off, a scene where the Repo Man uses a dead body like a hand puppet, and a plethora of other gross "WTF" scenes that don’t always feel like they fit (like the “Mark It Up” scene above) but are entertaining nevertheless.
So, if you’re looking for something to watch with friends that they definitely haven’t seen and likely won’t expect you to show them, Repo: The Genetic Opera is a great pick in the “what the heck is this movie and why can’t I stop watching” category.