It's very difficult to actually dislike a movie with this much energy and originality.
I've really been looking forward to this movie, ever since its big marketing push during the San Diego Comic Convention this past summer. Clips from the trailer, downloadable songs, and the awesome posters were available to fans. I thought it looked visually cool and daring and gruesome and I wanted very badly to see it.
This past weekend I got a gang of my friends together and we went to our Local Indie Cinema. We sat down, got our beers and our pizzas and our popcorn and we saw it through. We listened through the songs, cringed through the eviscerations, and were amused by the wild sights that Repo! laid before us. Yet the strangest thing happened when the lights went on. We all liked it....sorta. We mumbled and grumbled, struggled to put our finger on it, but I think we simply wanted to like it more.
Repo! The Genetic Opera is kind of a stretch on my single-topic blog rules. The horror is mostly of the visceral variety as the Repo Men stalk the streets, gruesomely vivisecting any organ transplant patients who can't keep up with their medical payments. The rest of the story is a gonzo rock opera set in a dystopian future, where a small family of psychopaths and degenerates live a decadent lifestyle as the people below them scrape by in poverty, completely dependent on the sinister GeneCo for their health and entertainment. There's something wonderfully grand guignol in the way this story is told, as we watch flesh split and entrails torn out of screaming victims by cackling madmen while crazy industrial songs are sung.
Despite the cheerfully ludicrous setting, the story itself is as outlandish as most musicals. There are lost loves, tragic heroes, monstrous villains, secrets, liars, tragic victims, all-knowing narrators, and all that jazz. All of this is, of course, wrapped up in a heavy gothic/industrial aesthetic.
I used to be much heavier into the goth scene when I was younger, before I realized that the personality affectations and kabuki-style look was more trouble than it was worth. Still, I have a strong affinity for the subculture and it's participants and I get a little Pavlovian response to anything marketed to the community. If ever a movie was tailor-made to the goth crowd, this is it. It takes place in one of those grim, ground-down futures where the sun never seems to turn up. The ever-awesome Ogre from Skinny Puppy plays a supporting character. Everything is so dark and grand and over-the-top and majestic. The heroine is a wan, sickly girl, trapped in a tower and forever melancholy in that theatrical way only goth kids can be, because everything is so unfair to her, goddamnit!
Here's the deal: for a musical, the songs in Repo! The Genetic Opera aren't particularly memorable. They're well shot and well sung, especially by Anthony Stewart Head, who absolutely rules as the Repo Man, but aside from one or two standouts everything kind of blends into each other. The singers and performers assembled for this movie are top-notch and they're able to elevate the material, but you tend to get swept up in the energy and the visuals more than the actual music.
The second issue I had with the movie is that it's one of those films that was hampered by it's budget. The movie mostly takes place on a handful of small sets, which makes the story suffer from a feeling of claustrophobia that seems at odds with the dark grandeur of the performances and the music.
I suppose I should say something about Paris Hilton's performance in the movie, where she portrays one of the three spoiled children who stand to inherit GeneCo after their father passes. She apparently irritates a lot of people, particularly my friend Kwame, who shouted some rather harsh criticisms at her while she blocked traffic during her appearance at the SDCC. I'm sure she's going to pull some people into theaters based on sheer WTF factor alone, but she's barely in the movie. She sings a couple songs in that breathy Marilyn Monroe faux-sexy way that mostly grates on the nerves, and her surgery-addicted character's face falls off during her closing number. All together, Repo! was a highly amusing vehicle for her talents. Bravo!
I totally think Repo! is absolutely worth seeing, if for no other reason than I want to see more of this sort of thing produced. It's a little too precious and self-aware to be a cult movie, but I think it'll find a loyal audience. It's one you have to see in theaters, when you can be completely overwhelmed by the razzle-dazzle onscreen. In a smaller, more intimate setting, the flaws of the movie would become more apparent. Still, go check it out, especially if your formative years were more Bauhaus than Backstreet Boys.