May 30, 2017
Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) (part 2 of 7)
By the way, before we get started, I’d just like to point out that the DVD is a real piece of work. Chapter breaks occur in mid-sentence, the closed captions routinely get the lyrics wrong when they show them at all, and instead of PLAY, it says TESTIFY. I realize it’s completely relevant to the film at hand, but cutesy crap like that just bugs me.
We open on a comic book intro. And in the first sign of just how ”stunning and original” this movie will be, the captions tell us that the story takes place in (ahem) “The Not-Too Distant Future.” Great. Anybody got a crate of Hamdingers? Because I need to escape from this movie.
In this proximate and forthcoming segment of the space-time continuum, chaos reigns because all of a sudden everyone’s organs just stop working. Ain’t it always the way? You think things are going great, and then wham! Suddenly everyone’s organs stop working.
But wait, a white horse emerges in the form of Corporate America! We zoom in on a vignette of a woman who needs a heart transplant, but without GeneCo’s “Organ Financing”, she’ll never be able to afford it. “Organ Financing”? Man, I never knew Wurlitzers got that expensive.
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Still in comic book land, we get a montage of people signing contracts with GeneCo, now the leading name in, get this, “surgery as a fashion statement”. Because when you go to the club, you’re not looking at her clothes, you’re wondering where she got her kidneys. The plot point here is that with easy financing, suddenly all this expensive designer surgery is tha shizznit. Meanwhile, the comic book images are trying to convince us they’re animated, mostly using that time-honored technique known as “moving static things in front of other static things.” It’s like playing foosball without a ball.
From its fab surgery business GeneCo manages to spin off a drug called Zydrate. Zydrate is basically a fictional version of Propofol; not only is it incredibly addictive, but it can somehow be extracted from the noses of dead people. (Like the ancient Egyptians, I firmly believe that the only thing that should be extracted from dead people’s noses is their own brains.)
Meanwhile, GeneCo’s founder—but hang on, I have to talk about his name, which is Rottissimo “Rotti” Largo. Because there are many seventy-year-old Italian men who call themselves “Rotti”, I’m sure. What, is his sister named Festeria? Does he have a cousin called Putrefaccio? And given that issimo signifies the superlative in Italian, does that mean that he’s the “rottiest”? Whatever. And the names just get sillier from here.
Anyway, “Rotti” somehow pushes a bill through Congress that legalizes “organ repossessions.” Repossession? Repo? Hey, I think I just guessed this movie’s premise! Not to mention the entirety of the thinking behind it. Still no word on what a “genetic opera” is, but as Smith and Zdunich don’t seem to know, either, I guess they can be forgiven for not telling us.
So, organ repossessions. I’m going to have to call bullshit. Why would a corporation bother to push for legislation, rather than just having the repo guy go around in the shadows and yank the defaulted organs out of people—which, frankly, would make for a much more interesting movie anyway? I mean, that’s what makes horror movies exciting—Congressional sanction!
We get a brief introduction to Rotti’s kids: Luigi, Amber Sweet, and Pavi. Pavi’s bit is that he wears a dead woman’s face over his own and acts like a prima donna. He’s, yeah, a nut job, although not the biggest nut job in this movie. Luigi is played by Bill Moseley and acts like every other character Bill Moseley’s ever played. Not that anyone’s acting is all that understated in Repo, but Moseley’s performance in this movie is so big he makes Christopher Eccleston look like Tobey Maguire.
Plastic-surgery-addicted Amber is Paris Hilton, both in real life and this story. Paris won a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress for this movie, but I can’t for the life of me see why. She can carry a tune well enough for what little they have her sing, and through some perverse wormhole effect she’s the only actor who escapes this movie with her dignity intact. After all, she didn’t go from Martin Scorsese to this. Hell, she didn’t go from Robert Rodriguez to this.
Only after this little cartoon cul-de-sac about GeneCo and its resident Addams family—which, setting an unsettling precedent for the redundancy of the cartoons in this movie, tells us things we could easily have guessed from watching the rest of the film—we finally get to the premise of our title character. See, people who can’t keep up payments on their organs get them violently removed by hatchet men in derelict street corners, and the best of the best is the Repo Man. (Actually there’s supposedly more than one, but we never see any others, and for all intents and purposes there’s just Repo Man.)
Yes, folks, the central figure of this “stunning and original” film is a knock-off of The Surgeon General of Beverly Hills, a tertiary villain from a Kurt Russell movie. Incidentally, I love his costume. But not as much as I did the first time I saw it, in House of 1,000 Corpses.
Is it too late to recap Re-Animator instead?
At this point the auteurs, perhaps fearing that the concept of organ repossession is too abstract for us to immediately comprehend, helpfully provide a graphic example. In this little case study, Repo Man stalks a woman through a warehouse, slices her throat, removes her organs, gives us a good look at the UPC code on the bottom of the organ, and voila! In the space of three minutes and twelve seconds they’ve managed to rip-off almost every Stephen King novel I’ve ever read.
But now, alas, we’ve run out of cartoons for the moment, which means we’re being bodily shoved into the “real world” of this film. Fittingly, the first idiot we lay eyes on is the comic sections’ illustrator and the film’s co-writer/composer, Terrance Zdunich, who wrote himself into the movie in the form of a grave-robbing character named, um, Graverobber. I guess calling him GenrePlunderer would have been too on-the-nose.
He’s here as a sort of narrator, if by “narrate” you mean “contributes absolutely nothing to the story and sells drugs to Paris Hilton.” Graverobbing is supposed to be a capital crime in this world, as we find out after a while, so we can at least spend all of Graverobber’s scenes hoping for a rare chance to see swift and terrible justice to rain down on the screenwriter.
Here, amid a techno chorus that keeps repeating “Reeeeeeeeeee-po maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnn!”, Graverobber, still concerned about clarifying our title character’s complex and mystical activities, sings us some more exposition about the Repo Man. None of this is anything we couldn’t have figured out for ourselves, and the song, a contender for the hard-fought title of most awful song in the film, only serves as a distraction from the graphic violence splattering across the screen as Repo Man does what he does best. We follow a hooker running through an abandoned warehouse until Repo catches her, slits her throat and removes her heart.
Which? We just saw.
And what does the narrator see fit to tell us as this is happening?
That since everybody has artificial parts, eventually Repo will have to kill everyone.
You know, like they just told us in the cartoon.
You know what’s “stunning and original” about this film? It’s not easy to make evisceration this boring. No one else has managed to do that quite as well as the creators of Repo. So… well done, everyone! Hats off. And faces. Hats and faces off to Repo, the dullest, most repetitive horror musical ever.