Story & Script
Repo! The Genetic Opera is set in a future where a worldwide epidemic encourages a bio-tech company to launch an organ-financing program similar in nature to a standard car loan, elective surgeries along with the life-saving ones have become the norm. What successful company wouldn’t want a better insurance guarantee, though? They push through a law that allows them to send out their own Repo Man to reclaim whatever GeneCo has put in a person, even if that’s the only thing keeping the person alive. The Repo Man is feared everywhere. We spend our time split with the daughter of one of the Repo Men, as well as the man himself, who’s been pressed into service because of an event in his past that tied him directly to the head of GeneCo. She’s sick and he’s trying to cure her, but she keeps going outside against his wishes, and ends up getting tangled in the revenge filled machinations of the head of GeneCo, who happens to be dying despite his company’s best efforts, as well as the dealings of a street level criminal named Graverobber, who’s responsible for supplying a black market version of one of GeneCo’s biggest painkillers. It’s a fun script. The songs are inventive and a lot of them play off each other. There are a few moments that don’t work as well as they used to, mainly because the camp factor gets a bit too high and the tone just doesn’t mesh with the rest of the film as well.
For the most part, the acting and singing in this is great. I think a few of the actors were either miscast or the characters and their songs are just that out of place or deplorable. Anthony Stewart Head as the Repo Man, however, is perfect. His voice is great at doing both the evil version of himself that’s given in to the depravity, and then a lot more normal for the parts where he’s just trying to get by, or relate to his daughter. I have to say I love Sarah Brightman as Blind Mag, but Alexa PenaVega is equally as good as Repo’s daughter. Terrance Zdunich steals every scene he’s in as Graverobber, and serves as the story’s unreliable narrator, given his character’s profession in the film.
Darren Lynn Bousman directed the first three sequels to Saw before tackling Repo!, and it shows in some ways, but he uses a lot of other techniques for this film that wouldn’t have been employed in the Saw series. The look and feel of the areas they filmed in definitely has that Saw feel to them, as well as the world. The effects work for the gore is along the same lines. He branches out here a bit, though, using the effects to extend the world a lot in some cases, and just simply to enhance it really well. While some of the scenes are played a bit too campy, a lot of that has to do with the songs, but when it needs to be creepy or elegant, he manages to nail it each and every time.
As a musical this works really well as they go out there with the look and feel for the whole film. It has this dirty and used feel, but the world feels very empty, except for this sprawling city packed with people who are mostly scraping to get by. It’s a very dark and fantastical look at a bleak future, and fits the tone and story for the film perfectly. While I like some of the comic book elements they added, they really give you information you’re already getting out of the songs in the film, if you’re paying attention, and can instead pull you out of it completely. I’d almost have preferred these to just be at the beginning and end of the film instead of getting them throughout.
I absolutely love Repo! The Genetic Opera. This isn’t going to be for everyone, but it definitely has a cult following. It manages to include just about everything I want in a film, though, between the sci-fi, horror and even the musical elements. I love popping this on to have it playing in the background, and to watch the scenes I really love. This is definitely one to go back and watch multiple times.
While it may not be for everyone, this bloody tale of revenge and freedom set in a future with corporations wielding the power always seem to be lurking out there. I love most of the songs, and apart from a few people that were either miscast, or their parts in the film just not working, Repo! The Genetic Opera is one of those cult films that I can’t recommend enough. It may not be as flashy as some, but they play with a lot of themes, and Graverobber is still one of my favorite unreliable narrators.