With Repo! The Genetic Opera celebrating it's 5th Anniversary in New York tomorrow, Hayley has a look over this cult musical.
When I first heard that Giles from Buffy was going to be in a dystopian musical gore-fest, my excitement levels were approaching critical mass. Imagine the torture, then, that the heavily-delayed release of Repo! The Genetic Opera caused, owning the soundtrack for a full thirteen months before being able to put those songs into context. Eventually, on the day of its DVD release, I organised a double-bill screening with Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog at my former university.
While Horrible was a resounding hit, the assembled crowds were less receptive to Repo!
Except for me, I was in love.
Anthony Stewart Head plays Nathan, a widower and the doting but controlling dad of 17-year-old Shilo (Alexa Vega), who inherited her mother’s blood disease. Unbeknownst to Shilo, who is kept locked away from the outside world; Nathan is also a Repo Man, working for GeneCo boss and former rival for wife Marni’s affections, Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino). Nathan’s struggle to reconcile his love for Shilo with his murderous occupation, and Shilo’s quest to discover the truth, drive much of the plot, but there’s much more going on. Rotti’s three children, vain Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton), psychotic Luigi (Bill Moseley) and Pavi (Ogre), a man who likes to wear women’s faces and yet is still desired by other women, are an embarrassment to their father. When Rotti discovers he is dying of a disease that even GeneCo can’t cure, he sets out to lure Marni’s daughter Shilo away from her father to inherit the company. Meanwhile, Marni’s best friend, Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman), GeneCo’s famous opera singer, wants to quit, even though she knows that breaking her contract will result in GeneCo repossessing her eyes.
There is very little subtlety in Repo!, and that is its charm. From the violence, to the set design, to lyrics such as “I remember, I dismember!” and Luigi’s memorable “I WILL SHOOT YOU IN THE FACE!”, the entire world is exaggerated. Except when it comes to Blind Mag. Sarah Brightman brings an inimitable touch of class to the proceedings with her elegant voice and quiet moments of defiance and dignity. Her stand-out performance is in the song Chromaggia, where she is able to convey a wealth of emotion in her eyes, even when wearing ludicrous contact lenses.
But the stand-out character for me is Grave Robber, played by co-creator Terrance Zdunich. Zdunich takes a role that is essentially Exposition Guy and makes him likable, endearing, and worth investing time and emotion in. He makes Zydrate Anatomy, a song that’s basically an info-dump for a fictional drug, the best number in the whole thing . You will, however, be left wondering why he’s screaming “GRAAAAAAAAAAVES!” while trying to hide from the Repo Men for much of the film. As I said earlier, this film lacks sublety.
Finally, onto the songs. The film combines a number of styles, but the most prominent are hard rock and opera. Surprisingly, this is a mix that entirely compliments each other. It’s when the film deviates from either of these styles that it suffers, like in Shilo’s pop-rock Seventeen. That said, that song features a Joan Jett cameo, so it’s still awesome.
If you hate musicals, this isn’t the film for you. If you can’t handle gore, avoid at all costs. If you want a bloody good time watching Rupert Giles rip out a man’s spine while singing, enjoy!
Also, if you like this, be sure to check out Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich’s follow-up project, The Devil’s Carnival, because it’s excellent.