Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) (part 1 of 7)
I’ve been writing for Agony Booth for a long time. The first draft for my segment of Battlefield Earth went in just after Christmas 2006. Since then, despite all the other articles I’ve kicked in over the years, I only have one solo recap. A lot’s happened since Neverending Story III got me into the club: I’ve loved and lost, published a successful novel, written the most controversial article in this site’s history, and generally done everything I’ve wanted to do, except another recap. Part of my problem is I’m too forgiving when it comes to movies. There’s almost always (in my opinion at least) some redeeming quality to a movie; hell, sometimes I think even Curse of the Cannibal Confederates could have been a good film with some judicious editing. But then, there are films like this, and frankly, they piss me off.
What can I say about Repo? Firstly, it’s shit.
Secondly, it’s confused shit. Not confusing, confused. The plot, when it has one, is just random palaver done up with weird costumes, outrageous make-up jobs, and cinematography that looks like it was done by the guy who does the Slipknot videos, when he was drunk.
But don’t just take my word for it:
Unlike the other cult musical that came out around the same time (which, to be fair, had a slightly different theme), Repo commits the two cardinal sins of musical entertainment: (a) it never bothers to create sympathetic characters, and (b) its songs are utterly, utterly forgettable. Sure, it has an antihero. That’s always fun, right? But whereas Neil Patrick Harris had you rooting for him to get the girl despite his descent into murder, Repo just coasts along on its empty visuals and gratingly pointless musical numbers, all of which exist solely to get fat, wannabe-goth chicks all gooey.
Now, I’m certainly not opposed to raw, underground, unfettered cinema on principle. A lot of great art has been made with nothing more than a lack of talent and a “Fuck you, Mom and Dad” attitude. Hell, the Ramones rode that formula into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But if you go that route, you still have to have something to say, because otherwise you’re just pandering to that pathetic, sophomore-to-junior pretty-people-with-imaginary-problems demographic who honestly think they’re rebelling by shopping at Hot Topic and smoking American Spirits in the janitor’s closet. The guys behind Repo obviously belonged to this group at one point, which may explain why they have the attention span of the White House Council on Foreign Relations: they’re all about setting up plot points and characters, spending less than five minutes on them, and then completely forgetting about them, because only posers care about continuity, man.
Chief Offender number one is Darren Lynn Bousman, the auteur who gave us Saws II through IV. He had mounted the stage version of this show after doing Saw III, because he felt it was his chance to do something important. For some people it’s the Peace Corps, for others it’s a vomitous rock opera. It’s either-or, really.
Vowing never to work with Jigsaw again (and then doing Saw IV during pre-production on the film version of Repo because, get this, the script was just so good!), he proceeded, along with playwrights Terrance Zdunich and Darren Smith and X-Japan drummer Yoshiki Hayashi, to make a movie horror musical so repulsive that it not only is much more terrifying than Jigsaw, but makes the viewer wish that Jigsaw were real, so he might put us out of our misery.
The cast is one of the weirdest assemblages of miscast misfits outside of a Rob Zombie film, which is not to its benefit, mixing slumming teen stars, fringe cult figures, and Paulie from GoodFellas. It has 64 songs (supposedly a world record), all of which suck. Not only are they not the least bit memorable, but in addition they somehow manage to repeat the dialogue, despite the film having hardly any dialogue to repeat. Tonally, Repo shifts back and forth from gruesome to aren’t-we-clever staginess with such alarming frequency that one actually considers the possibility that both writers had simultaneous strokes several days running during the first few drafts. The end result is like listening to The Serpent and the Rainbow being read aloud by an old lady from Senegal who thinks it’s a detective story.
I would never have seen this movie at all if it weren’t for a girl. Or rather, The Girl. We’ll call her Jane. I met Jane when I was thirteen, and in the intervening years we’ve been in a relationship approximately twenty-two times. Whatever the reason, things just never work out; it’s our karma that we should care very much for each other despite the fact that we don’t get along and have absolutely nothing in common.
She and I went to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show a few months back (I’ve never done it anywhere else, but Rocky Horror in Snellville sucks). As part of the festivities, they played a preview for Repo right before the film, which made her and all her snooty college friends piss themselves with glee, so much so that as soon as we got home at 3:00 a.m. they just had to watch it. I had to drive back to Richmond later that morning, so I politely declined.
Flash-forward two months. My unit’s been at Ft. Polk, LA, for a month and everyone’s going mad with boredom. In my youthful ignorance I had only brought Season 7 of Degrassi to watch on my DVD player, and only a foolish fool will think that one season of TNG will stave off boredom for any length of time. Thankfully, my savior came in the form of a libertarian film buff named Brown. The man’s insane, but he’s got great taste in movies, and always has the hard-to-find shit on hand, but it comes with a price. To borrow his copy of Repo, I had to do something no sane film buff would do: I loaned him my copy of Meet the Feebles.
So, as you see, the morons behind Repo really owe me.