DVD Review: Repo! The Genetic Opera

I have one word for Repo! The Genetic Opera: Insane.

Wait, I also have one more: Unwatchable.

Darren Lynn Bousman, the man responsible for directing Saw II, III and IV, directs this perverse musical (based on the stage play by Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich), with about as much flair and energy as a mechanical wind-up doll whose key is starting to stop. What should be an absolutely unhinged descent into the wickedly macabre is instead a surreal slide into idiocy and turgid ickiness. This Rocky Horror Picture Show wannabe is as much fun as getting stuck in a torrential downpour without an umbrella and having a passing car muddily splash you for good measure.

The funny part, though, is that if you only listen to the musical numbers without actually watching the film itself this odd gothic whirligig can be slightly enthralling. By and large, the cast Bousman has enlisted can really sing (save, unsurprisingly, Paris Hilton), Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” singing his heart out like no tomorrow), Sarah Brightman (the Broadway legend, she helped make The Phantom of the Opera a household name), Alexa Vega (a long way from Spy Kids) and Ogre (he’s the lead singer of Skinny Puppy, my little brother says they’re awesome) all belting out their tunes with a perverse bravado that’s almost wonderful.

The story is set in a dystopian future where a worldwide epidemic of organ failure has devastated the globe. A company, GENCO, becomes the only one capable of providing transplants for those in need. The problem is, their repayment plans are killer, and if you miss a single installment they’ll send out the repo man to bloodily cut out what they feel is theirs.

It’s completely absurd and over the top, that’s a given, but the songs have such urgency and brazen forcefulness I imagine that it probably worked rather well stripped down and confined to the theatrical stage. But here it is a massively designed groaner, the whole thing a mishmash of Blade Runner, Metropolis and a really disgusting S&M club no one but the lowest dregs of humanity would ever admit to stumbling into.

Worse, it’s also freakishly slow and chaotically over-directed. Bousman edits as if he feels his audience has the attention span of a gnat, never staying focused upon any of the characters long enough for the words they’re soulfully singing to sink in, alleviating any chance of resonance. Watching it is like being repeatedly punched in the face while being sweetly serenaded at the same time, as you end up not caring a thing about the latter because the former has you doubled in uncontrollable pain.

The DVD offers up two featurettes of which only one, “From Stage to Screen,” has any real interest as it lets Smith and Zdunich talk about the different influences that inspired them to create this sordid tale of misery, brutality, woe and energetic guitar riffs in the first place. There are also two commentary tracks, the first with the director and some of the actors, the second also with Bousman this time joined by the playwrights and music producer Joseph Bishra.

I admit to not listening to either of these. I tried to slog my way through the first one, but after about five minutes I just decided I had better things to do like pound nails through my fingers and pull the hair out of my head one follicle at a time. It just wasn’t worth it, and unless you fall far more in love with this picture than I did I can’t imagine anyone feeling any different.

As far as the final word is concerned, I say listen to the soundtrack and leave the watching of the movie itself alone. Repo! The Genetic Opera is am ocular disaster, and as far as I’m concerned this one can go straight to the discount bin in which it belongs.

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