repo_the_genetic_opera03By Brian Brecker

Senior Writer

“Repo! The Genetic Opera,” a cult classic rock opera musical directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, celebrated its 10th anniversary on Nov. 7.

The film centers on a man who repossesses organs in a dystopian capitalist future on behalf of healthcare behemoth GeneCo and a young girl with a blood condition longing to leave her home.

First released in 2008, it’s a bombastic pageant of blood, guts, and frequent musical numbers. The Repo-Man, played by Anthony Stewart Head, is one of many who prowl the grim streets of an unnamed city on behalf of GeneCo to repossess organs from their owners who have failed to meet the financier’s costs and gone into debt.

He struggles with a dual persona, constantly sliding between being a blood-spattered psychopath and a protective father.

Alexa Vega plays Shilo Wallace, a young sick girl who is chosen by GeneCo founder Rottie Largo, played by operatic singer Paul Sorvino, to inherit his fortunes ahead of his children who are either a violent murderer, a sexual deviant, or literally Paris Hilton.

Bousman is the controversial director of the sequel “Saw” films, and known for his vocal conflicts with the Motion Picture Association of America. Whole sequences had to be cut from “Saw II” in order to stay within an “R” rating.

Upon release, “Repo!” was eviscerated by critics, who called it “awful and disgusting,” and an “excruciating torture.”

The film, however, soon grew a large following of devoted fans who praised its memorable music and complex characters.

Illustrating this divide, “Repo!” currently holds a 37 percent among critics and a 72 percent among audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.

Recent retrospective reviews have likewise become more positive. Bousman’s second horror musical after “Repo!” was “The Devil’s Carnival,” and it received generally positive reviews.

The emotional core of the story revolves around a surprisingly compelling father-daughter relationship. “Repo!” also looks into the issues of drug dependency and our culture’s obsession with beauty.

At times, “Repo! The Genetic Opera” is not just an addictively entertaining romp but also a subtly transgressive film.

Not to mention, the film doesn’t appropriate the term “opera” without any justification.

Operatic singer Paul Sorvino from “Goodfellas” blew viewers away with his powerful pipes, and the Broadway singer Sarah Brightman appeared in her first feature film role as Blind Mag.

Terrance Zdunich’s character, the mysterious GraveRobber, serves as a kind of Greek chorus in the film.

The music mixes hard rock, classical opera, and electronic music with ease. Central to the film is the event of the Genetic Opera, a corporate-backed opera house meant both as a means of classical entertainment, and also as a vulgar marketing campaign for GeneCo.

The balance between these two extremes provides a coherence to the conflicting styles of music in the context of the film. The shifting and clashing musical tone is part of what gives the film its uniqueness.

“Repo! The Genetic Opera” has persisted because of its vibrant and well-realized characters, emotional and impacting storytelling, its distinct visual flair, and its catchy and unique musical style.

Most importantly however, “Repo!” has persisted because it continues to have something meaningful and relevant to convey to audiences about the nature of family, business, healthcare, and society.

The Elm

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