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He Will Rip Your Still-Beating Heart From Your Chest: Repo: The Genetic Opera

Written by: Paula Haifley, CC2K Horror Chick

CC2K's Horror Chick heaps praise upon this new rock musical.

ImageI love rock musicals. Just getttin’ that out there, full disclosure, so that you know that I’m disposed to like Repo: The Genetic Opera. But I do hate Paris Hilton, so I’m disposed to hate this film a bit too…, which makes sense, because I liked most of the film, but there were bits I really disliked.

In Repo, it is the future. People go into organ failure regularly, but they also have surgery to change their look, to spruce themselves up, or just because they want to. GeneCo, started by Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), lets people buy organs on credit, like a car. But miss a payment, and they send the repo man (Anthony Stewart Head) to come and get the organ back… without anesthetic. Sounds awesome so far, right? Imagine hearing that explanation three or four times, once through comic book panels, once in song by the Grave Robber (Terrance Zdunich), and another time from the main characters.

The Repo man is also a doctor, and keeps his seventeen year-old daughter Shiloh (Alexa Vega) locked away from the world because of her rare blood condition, which she inherited from her late mother. Now imagine hearing about that three or four times. You get the idea. Shiloh sneaks out, trying to find a cure for her blood disease, and to find out what happened to her mother, and stuff happens and people sing a lot, Rotti tries to decide which of his useless kids to leave his genetic empire to, and other people have their organs ripped out and meet violent ends. Repo has some great gore (two people walked out of the press screening, which is always a good sign).

There were a lot of things I liked about Repo, and a lot of things I didn’t. The expository comic book panels didn’t work, especially when you have characters saying the exact same thing the comics just showed, or show flashbacks of the same damn thing later on in the film. Repo was originally a stage musical, so how did they give the audience the back-story on stage? I would have much preferred the Grave Robber acting as narrator throughout the film, a device used in a lot of stage-musicals-to-filmed-musicals.

Another bad thing about the film: Paris Hilton. She was basically playing herself, and despite what director Darren Lynn Bousman says about her giving a great audition, this comes off as pure stunt casting. She barely sings her songs, alternating between Britney Spears-esque whispery breathiness and power screeching like the proverbial dying cat. Her character is the useless daughter of rich Rotti and is addicted to surgery and to the street version of the pain killer that lets her go under the knife without pain, a drug that the Grave Robber harvests from dead bodies. Talk about low overhead. There’s an absolutely ludicrous, not sexy at all montage of Hilton grinding, getting rained on, and writing against the Grave Robber after he shoots her up with the illegal drug. Lesson learned: when you put Hilton in a situation that might be sexy with a regular girl, it just looks silly and makes you hope the other actor didn’t catch anything from her.

All of the other actors do a good job, especially Paul Sorvino, who is a classically trained opera singer. but the breakout performance comes from Grave Robber Zdunich. If this film is a hit (which, considering the subject matter lends it more to moderately successful or cult classic) it is he who will get the most notice. He’s charismatic, cool, and oozes sultry sex appeal. His growling baritone really sells the score, and every time he’s on screen the film picks up.

Repo has a cool, goth-dystopian futuristic style, and I can see fans dressing as many of these characters for Halloween or sing a long screenings. A lot of the music would be great to sing along with in the car or the shower. I recommend seeing it, and if the first part annoys you, just stick with it. Once Bousman gets the exposition out of the way, the film will get your blood pumping … but it won’t rip anything out of your chest. Not even that wart.