Monday, January 26, 2009
Revel in the movie madness that is Repo! The Genetic Opera
For a long time,I've been longing to see Repo! The Genetic Opera,a dark horror/sci fi fantasy musical,ever since the first teaser was presented at the Spike Awards.
Despite the fact that the film was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman(who also directed the more successful entries in the Saw series)and produced by the folks behind Saw,R!TGO only received a limited run in theaters with very little fanfare from the studio to boot.
The movie is now available on DVD(along with the soundtrack)and praise be to the Netflix,I finally got the chance to see what the hoopla is all about.
The story takes place in a bleak futuristic society,where organ failure became an epidemic and a huge corporation named GeneCo stepped in to save the day. They made getting necessary(and not so necessary)surgery possible,but at one hell of a catch.
You can pay for your operation in installments,but miss one payment and the company's Repo Men come to collect their property,without any painkillers.
GeneCo is run by Rotti Largo(Paul Sorvino),who doesn't want to leave his vast empire to any of his three vile children;Luigi(Bill Moseley),a violently short tempered fiend,Pavi(Orge,from the band Skinny Puppies)who steals a new face to wear whenever it suits him,and Amber Sweet(Paris Hilton),a spokesperson for the company who crawls around back alleys getting high on zydrate to feed her surgery jones.
The central character is Shilo(Alexa Vega),a sickly seventeen year old girl who has been kept in isolation at home,due to a rare blood disease she inherited from her deceased mother Marni.
Her health is constantly monitored by her father Nathan(Anthony Stewart Head),a doctor determined to protect his only child from the dangers of the outside world. That's not the least of the secrets and lies told to and kept from Shilo by him,with the most gruesome one of all being what Nathan really does when he makes house calls at the behest of GeneCo:
Shilo does sneak outside,and runs into Graverobber(Terrence Zdrunich,also a co-creator of the stage play that the movie is based on)who street deals the drug zydrate favored by those hooked on surgery. The Graverobber also functions as a narrator/Greek chorus at times in the story,commenting on the action and foreshadowing what's to come.
While cruising the mean streets with him,Shilo runs into Amber Sweet and learns about the deadly fate awaiting Shilo's favorite singer,Blind Mag(Sarah Brightman).Seems that Mag wants to leave her iron clad contract as GeneCo's exclusive opera star but breaking her contract will cost her dearly in more ways than one:
Blind Mag is more than just a musical icon to Shilo;turns out that she's an old family friend who intended to be a big part of Shilo's life:
The fate of Blind Mag and GeneCo,as well as a number of other grievances,are brought to a climatic head at the Genetic Opera,sponsored by the Largo family. As it is with most operas,the end results are dire indeed(no spoilers,I promise).
This is not a story for the faint hearted or those who prefer a happy,shiny approach to the musical genre. Repo is meant to be a modern day version of classical opera, complete with over the top plotting,twisted family secrets,long held grudges resolved and most of the dialogue spoken in song. It makes the Rocky Horror Picture Show look like appropriate viewing for your grandmother,not an easy thing to accomplish.
Whether or not Repo is your particular cup of tea,the creativity and drive of the film is most impressive. Repo started life as a series of stage productions which later blossomed into a cult musical. Even when Lionsgate wasn't throwing any big ad campaign money towards the finished film,the cast and crew went on a couple of road tours to promote the movie themselves. That kind of devotion to artistic expression is great and shows the love and care that went into this sadly sweet(at times)story.
The best performances come from the elder members of the cast,particularly Sorvino and Stewart Head who breathe some needed empathy into characters that do some extremely nasty things to both friend and foe alike,in the name of love.
Sarah Brightman's moments as Blind Mag are wonderful to behold and you wish for more of them. The young folks do well enough,and even Paris Hilton(regardless of her Razzie nomination for this film)is tolerable here. You could almost call it typecasting,but in this case,it works to the story's advantage.
Like many cult movies,Repo! The Genetic Opera will get it's due from the growing fan base who happily support it in any way they can. If you're in the mood for something truly completely different,take a chance and go to the opera tonight:
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