You know how you can sometimes listen to a song and think, it’s okay I guess, kind of odd, but not too bad. Then, months later, you find yourself thinking about it again, and you realize you’ve never heard anything quite like it. And you pay closer attention to the lyrics, the key changes, the varied instrumentation. And then you realize, in a moment of stunned silence, that the song you thought was so-so was actually fucking brilliant.
That is exactly how watching Repo! The Genetic Opera went for me. I thought it was a new idea, something I hadn’t seen before, but otherwise not terribly special. Then the haunting began and, oh holy night surgeon, was I taken by it. I couldn’t get around the things I’d missed: the complex story, the multi-faceted characters, the clever lyrics, the sheer lunacy of creating something so absurd but so completely epic.
The world Repo! built is a true dystopia, a society gone so wrong, ruled by a monopolistic corporation, and one man, whose idea of revenge is right along the lines of Oldboy (if you haven’t seen that, you’re missing out on one serious mental meltdown). In this world, you can get new organs on a payment plan when yours inevitably fail, but if you can’t pay your bills, the repo man comes to get your organs back. And he doesn’t mess around with silly things like anesthesia when he takes them. Nope. You’re just dead, pretty much.
But here’s the kicker. We have two primary characters in this story, two people we’re supposed to sympathize with and root for. And that would be the repo man and his daughter. Just let that mull in your head for a moment. The repo man is our hero.
Talk about an anti-hero. This one is a doozy, and I am convinced no one could ever play the role again after Anthony Stewart Head gave a soul and his gorgeous singing voice to the character. If you see this film for no other reason, do it for his performance. The way that man oscillates between a doting father and a maniacal killer who loves his job is something to behold. But don’t miss Paul Sorvino’s powerful presence as the villainous Rotti Largo, or Sarah Brightman as the mysterious Blind Mag, for that matter. Does she ever do anything bad?
Be prepared for plenty of gore and a good dose of camp, and maybe a few annoying moments. You may walk away thinking it was a mediocre film, but you’ll be reminded of it months or even years later, and then you won’t be able to get it out of your head. What I would especially like to get you thinking about is what the climax of the film manages to say about the way we, as a society, view horrific true events as entertainment. Seriously, it’s brilliant.
As an added bonus, the years-later event that put this film back on my radar was my discovery of Paw’s Music Movies. It’s been so fun to watch his musical reviews, so nostalgic. And I find my tastes very closely match his, which is awesome because I thought I was the only weirdo out there who could never get that stupid siren song from Hocus Pocus out of my head. Here’s his review of Repo!, complete with spoilers, so watch at your own risk. Check out his other reviews, too. Especially if you grew up watching musicals and would enjoy learning new little tidbits about them. The man really knows his stuff.