Saturday, January 10, 2009

Repo! The Genetic Opera (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2008)

As an extremely young girl growing up in the jungles just outside Belize City, I would often look up at my father/pimp/real estate agent, tilt my pigtail-covered head ever so slightly to the left, and ask, "When is Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy gonna star in a gory rock opera alongside an unfairly maligned hotel heiress?" And I remember he would look at me with those bloodshot eyes of his and say, "Soon, my little Paquita. Real soon." (My actual name at the time was Gordie, but he liked to call me Paquita in honour of my lopsided breasts.) Anyway, this stock answer of his never failed to anger and perplex me. I mean, where was my ill-conceived rock opera? Apparently, being the mid-80s and all, the heiresses' primary sexing crevice wasn't quite ready to withstand the pressures that come with starring alongside Mr. Ogre in a ghoulish musical. In fact, you'd be insane to shove anything in there at all, let alone the contents of a fiendishly ambitious opus demoniacal about surgery, disease, and grave robbing. However, when it did eventually develop the vaginal elasticity to cope with the heavy burden, that heiress was finally able to fulfill this simple peasant girl's dream and star in what has to be to most outlandishly inappropriate and bloodiest musicals ever made. That heiresses' name, by the way, is Paris Hilton, and the movie is Repo! The Genetic Opera, the kind of event picture sane people, like me myself, wait their whole lives to wallow in. Channeling everything from The Phantom of the Paradise and the video for Corey Hart's masterwork "Sunglasses At Night" to Joss Whedon's "Once More, with Feeling" and the rejuvenating armpit hair of Gitane Demone, Saw sequel director Darren Lynn Bousman has made an effervescent slab of gothic pornography for the soul.

The packed audience I saw it with may have been a tad light in the Siouxsie-loving department, but the ones who were there were no doubt wetter than my Aunt Judy's nonexistent birthing sack (she's a fully-committed Marxist she-male) by sights and sounds in this movie. Ashen faces, tightly sheathed bodies, and darkly lit alleyways and sleeping rooms pepper the screen as a new goth sensation is born. The biggest leap in darkwave since the guy from Fields of the Nephilim decided to brood more.

An illuminating look into the not-so distant future, the bulk of the story centers around GeneCo, an omnipresent conglomerate that provides vital organs and body augmentations to an increasingly unwell society (worldwide organ failure has recently swept the globe).

These anatomical services, however, aren't free, and when payment for said services are late, GeneCo send out scalpel-wielding Repo Men to take back the unpaid parts. That's the basic gist of it, but there's also a strained relationship between a sick girl and her organ repossessing father, a blind opera singer with mechanical eyes who can't get out of her GeneCo contract, and the grown children of GeneCo's founder fight over his inheritance.

Catchy without making a fuss about it, yet terse when it has to be, the music is a colourful mishmash of ghastly verses ("What precision! Keen incisions!") and nonthreatening industrial rock (KMFDM meets Die Form with a hint of Phantom of the Opera) performed by one of the oddest casts in recent memory. The multi-talented Alexa Vega leads this strange assortment as the wide-eyed Shilo, a sickly girl who is tired of being locked in her room. The tiny Alexa shines when she rocks with Joan Jett and a couple of puppets on the punk-infused "Seventeen." While Paul Sorvino lends his signature stare and deep pipes as the Rotti Largo, CEO of GeneCo. (Andreja Punkris and Alisa Burket should also be commended for their work as Rotti's icy henchwomen - proving that fishnets, sunglasses, and twelve gauge shotguns are indeed a sexy combination.)

The gorgeous Sarah Brightman is an ethereal delight as Blind Mag, the aforementioned opera singer with the electronic eyeballs who sells her soul to GeneCo (her contract has some mighty fine print). Her striking physical appearance, which was a cross between a demented bridesmaid and Stevie Nicks after six straight days of orally pleasuring the recently crucified undercarriage of Karen Finley, combined with her topnotch singing ability and overall stage presence were a force to be reckon with. Her emotional and sleek rendition of "Chase the Morning," the film's lone techno-friendly song, brought a mild lump to my throat (and plus the eye projection effect was super cool).

Former instant coffee pitchman Anthony Head (a.k.a. Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) carries most of the film's singing duties early-on as Nathan Wallace, a conflicted Repo Man caring after her ill daughter. Well, he's not that conflicted, the nonchalance he displays while removing some dude's spinal chord proves that part of him enjoys his work. At any rate, Mr. Head brings a lot of power to his ditties and garners a few laughs here and there.

Garnering more than a few laughs is Ogre and Bill Moseley as Pavi and Luigi Largo, the incompetent sons of Rotti. The latter plays Luigi as a raging psychopath ("I will shoot you in the face!"), while former is just plain funny as the Fredoesque Pavi. Which is weird, because when I think of comedy, the normally blood and mud-covered singer of Skinny Puppy isn't the first person to spring to mind.

As if single-handedly getting a scrawny soothsayer elected President of the United States of America wasn't enough, now she's the star of Repo! The Genetic Opera. I don't know, for someone who purportedly doesn't do anything, I'd say Paris Hilton is one busy lady. Aware that some misguided people still see her as the Joseph Goebbels of the modern era, director Bousman uses the shapely inheritrix sparingly. However, this doesn't mean that she lingers quietly in the background. On the contrary, as Paris takes part in my favourite music sequence in the entire film, "Zydrate Anatomy."

Explaining how Zydrate works, a drug that comes in a little glass vial (yeah, that's right, a little glass vial), Graverobber (the charismatic Terrance Zdunich) starts singing about his little glass vial full of iridescent goo, when all of a sudden, Paris' surgery-addicted Amber Sweet swoops in like a floozy from some gaudy, STD-laden netherworld. Garbed in a black lingerie number that exposes her lanky frame for the stain-worthy work of art that it truly is, Paris spews out morbid song lyrics like a misunderstood moth shrouded in darkness, and manages to hold her own with the scene-stealing Zdunich (who also co-wrote the film). It's the highlight of a film that is full of morbid whimsy, extravagant, Blade Runner-esque skylines, playful music, and exquisite costumes. The film of the decade stars Paris Hilton and Nivek Ogre.



  1. What. The. Fuck.
    Do you know how my other half said you had been reviewing some weird movies of late? I wonder what he'd think of this one. :)

    As has been my habit lately, I'll comment more when I'm less tired.

  2. "What. The. Fuck."

    Yeah, I know, I forgot the second 'e' in "real estate."

  3. You forgot the "e" in Cor(e)y Hart's name, too. ;)

    Seriously, this movie sounds like it was written by YOU!

    Great review!

    Oh, did you see those Ben tossers on At the Movies? One of them named Repo! The Genetic Opera! as the worst movie of 2008. :( I think it was Lyons. Yes, it was. And Mankiewicz had Mamma Mia! at #10. As my dad would say, he doesn't know what's good.

  4. I forgot Corey Hart's 'e'? Really? Damn.

    Yeah, I should write a lavish rock opera. One that stars Anna Faris, Kristen Chenoweth, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

    Thanks. :)

    Those Ben tossers? Hee. I was gonna ask you what you thought of the new At the Movies. I guess that answers my question. Anyway, I saw the first half of their worst of 2008 show, but turned it off because I knew one or both of them would have Repo! The Genetic Opera as their number one. (I couldn't bare to watch my movie get trashed by the likes of them.)

    It's been a couple of weeks, but I think a critic at Now Magazine (a local free weekly) had both Wanted and Mamma Mia! on their best of 2008 list.

    Hey, I just noticed that both Repo and Mamma Mia use exclamation points in their titles. Crazy world, huh?