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Music of the Night

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

Steve Wilkie/Lionsgate

“Repo! The Genetic Opera” essentially consists of bad, campy torture porn interspersed within an incessant string of overwrought musical numbers. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the burden of filming the stage play by Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich should fall on Darren Lynn Bousman, heretofore best known for directing the middle three “Saw” installments. “Repo!” deserves credit for its go-for-broke ambition but offers little more than 98 minutes of pure cacophonic excess. In many respects, it is as brutal an experience as the low-grade horror fare it apes.

The story takes place in 2056, in which an epidemic of organ failures has led to the emergence of GeneCo, a corporation that controls the world’s tiny supply of healthy organs and offers transplants for a price. There is but a tiny catch: GeneCo charges a steep price that very often sends recipients of its products into debt to the company. When they don’t pay up, GeneCo sends their way a brutal Repo Man (Anthony Stewart Head), charged with repossessing the organs as gruesomely as possible. A long opening sequence of comic panels and the first of many lackadaisical songs introduces all this, leaving far too much time for a cumbersome narrative involving the Repo Man, his repressed daughter, Shilo (Alexa Vega), and the future of GeneCo, headed by the dying, villainous Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino).

Among the magical sights and sounds to be beheld here: Paris Hilton’s face literally falling off, a blind Sarah Brightman projecting holograms out of her eyes, the Repo Man completely eviscerating several victims, and lots of garishly festooned extras jumping around the sets like Ritalin-addled children. One shouldn’t forget the stagy musical scenes, in which the actors aimlessly strut around while being overwhelmed by the lyrically dense songs. In fairness, creating this took some imagination, and Mr. Bousman should be credited for achieving an ethereal haunted fun house style with production designer David Hackl (who later got a promotion to direct “Saw V”) and director of photography Joseph White.

Yet, the movie so transparently wants to be the newest “Rocky Horror Picture Show” or “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” that it forgets that cult status must be earned, not simply desired. It also ignores another fundamental rule for this sort of thing, forgoing the quirky charm of its cult classic predecessors for something infinitely grimmer and more assaultive. Odd for a film that thinks it’s so much fun to be so overwhelmingly glum and depressing. “Repo!” badly needs some sort of lighter touch, something or someone to say it’d be okay to actually have fun at the movie and not let the gleeful mutilations – or Ms. Hilton – get us down.


Opens on Nov. 7 in Manhattan.

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman; written by Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich, based on their stage play; director of photography, Joseph White; edited by Harvey Rosenstock; music and lyrics by Mr. Smith and Mr. Zdunich; production designer, David Hackl; produced by Daniel Jason Heffner, Carl Mazzocone, Oren Koules and Mark Burg; released by Lionsgate. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. This film is rated R.

WITH: Alexa Vega (Shilo Wallace), Anthony Stewart Head (Nathan/Repo Man), Sarah Brightman (Blind Mag), Paris Hilton (Amber Sweet), Ogre (Pavi Largo) and Paul Sorvino (Rotti Largo).


Paris Hilton's face falls off? This might almost be worth seeing.

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