By William Bonfigilo
It wouldn’t be Halloween season without terrible movies, often so campy and clichéd, horribly written and poorly acted that they are more titillating than terrifying. Once in a while, a movie will veer from beautiful teenagers being stalked by insane/misunderstood/evil forces and introduce a truly novel premise. Think “Saw” in 2004, before the torture porn genre became as outdated as last year’s jack-o-lanterns.
In 2008, film director Darren Lynn Bousman brought an original premise to the big screen. It’s a shame that the movie itself, “Repo! The Genetic Opera,” was so abominable.
“Repo! The Genetic Opera” was first conceived by Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich as a stage play in 1996, but it developed a strong underground following, in no small part thanks to its creative take on repossessions.
The film’s introduction presents a bizarre futuristic world. The year is 2056, nearly three decades after an epidemic of mass organ failures devastated the world’s population. To combat the outbreak, a biotechnology company called GeneCo begins harvesting unaffected organs from the recently deceased, and leasing those organs to infected individuals. If patients are unable to pay their medical bill, GeneCo sends the Repo Man to reacquire the organ through any means necessary. Scenes of improvised surgery clog the movie, and, despite the American appetite for violence, the film drags.
“Repo!” embodies the very notion of campiness. Featuring a collection of performers who are either washed up (Sarah Brightman, Paul Sorvino) or lacking talent altogether (Alexa Vega, Paris Hilton), Bousman tries to make do with a style that is both grandiose and gross; organs are literally picked up and passed to the characters as if they were hot potatoes. Attempts at witticisms are crude and ineffective, characters are aggravating and whiny, and musical numbers are irritating, childish and poorly conceived, with too few strong moments for such a musically inclined cast (Brightman, Sorvino and Vega).
Such pretension shows a resemblance to the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” another campy Halloween film that developed an underground cult following. The difference between the two films seems to be charm. While actor Tim Curry could make transvestitism delightful in “Rocky Horror,” Anthony Head, who plays the Repo Man, lacks the swagger to convey any emotion besides contempt effectively. His character grows tiresome quickly.
While the premise was strong enough to inspire an action-packed blockbuster (“Repo Men,” 2010), “Repo! The Genetic Opera” failed as a film, and while its style was certainly memorable, it was also really painful to sit through.