"Repo! The Genetic Opera" -- reviewed by Craig J. Clark and Joe Blevins

By Craig J. Clark and Joe Blevins

Well, it just goes to show you can't get a good project down. As I write this, it has been close to 15 months since NBC took ratings-challenged horror series Fear Itself off the air in favor of the Summer Olympics (who are the programming wizards who made that decision?) and almost as long since Joe and I reviewed the putrid horror anthology Trapped Ashes as a way of sustaining interest in "Project: Fear Itself" until the Olympic Games were over and the show could be returned to the schedule. Alas, this was not to be for the five unaired episodes remained in NBC's vaults despite the perfect opportunity to burn them off that October, which by happenstance had five Thursdays in it (just as it did this year). It seemed we would have to wait for the inevitable DVD release to finish what we (and NBC) had started, which brings us to now.

On September 15, Lionsgate unleashed upon the largely indifferent buying public a clumsily packaged box set entitled Fear Itself - The Complete First Season, which appears to have been named by some kind of blinkered optimist because there's very little chance that a show that was by all accounts a ratings black hole and was canceled after only eight episodes will be returning for a second season. Still, the presence of the five unaired episodes (including the long-anticipated werewolf story) was enough to get me to shell out the money for it. Alas, my erstwhile collaborator -- spendthrift that he is -- has decided to wait until he can purchase a used copy off some poor schmoe who needs the money to help pay for his mother's kidney transplant or some suchness, so until Mr. Blevins finds somebody who fits that description and has a Fear Itself DVD set to unload, this project regrettably remains in limbo.

Still, as we have reached the fabled season of Halloween, I wanted to find another downmarket horror film for the two of us to sink our teeth into. Enter Repo! The Genetic Opera, which I've actually had my eyes on since it was released in January of this year. For one thing it was directed by one of Fear Itself's resident directors, Darren Lynn Bousman of "New Year's Day" fame. For another, the cover art looked super cool (which I realize isn't always a sign of quality, but still). Then came the stumbling block: one of the cast members was Paris Hilton, which instantly took Repo! out of the running as far as I was concerned. You see, a long time ago (probably around the theatrical release of House of Wax), I vowed never to consume any product that Hilton had anything to do with, even if she only had a supporting role, because I felt that would send the wrong message to Hollywood. This has allowed me to skip such questionable entertainments as Bottoms Up (in which she co-starred with Jason Mewes), National Lampoon's Pledge This!, The Hottie and The Nottie and the reality series Paris Hilton's My New BFF (and its pond-jumping followup Paris Hilton's British Best Friend). Unfortunately, it also rendered Repo! off-limits in spite of my certainty that it was tailor-made for us.

That all changed when I happened upon a used copy at a run-down farmer's market over the summer, which gave me the out I needed to buy Repo! with impunity. Since my purchase wasn't financially benefiting Hilton (or anybody else apart from the video store owner and perhaps his sick mother), I could make it in good conscience and still maintain my steadfast non-support of Hilton's show business career. All that was left for me to do was to watch the movie and send the disc on to Joe to get his take on it. Piece of cake, right? Well, not quite. From here Joe picks up the story.

* * *

"It is finished." - JOHN 19:30

I have seen Repo! The Genetic Opera. Repo! The Genetic Opera has been seen by me. The seeing of Repo! The Genetic Opera by me has been accomplished.

Overkill? Perhaps. But you have to understand, citizens, that my quest to see Repo! The Genetic Opera was an ordeal that makes The Lamb's misadventure at Golgotha seem but a minor, trifling inconvenience at best. You have just read Mr. Clark's tale of procuring a copy of this 2008 film at a farmer's market and sending said copy on to me. But what you have not been told is that this particular package never reached its intended recipient. Oh no, my friends. It was seized in transit, possibly by a thief or pirate hellbent upon seizing even the merest token of Paris Hilton's storied career. Right now, there may well be a postal carrier lying in a ditch, bruised and bleeding. I pray for hm or her.

Naturally, I had to procure a replacement copy... and quickly, too, as Mr. Clark's patience was wearing ever more thin by the week, then the day, then the hour. Complicating matters considerably, no store in the area would dare to stock a film as outré as Repo! The Genetic Opera, nor would any reputable library include the film in its collection. To obtain a screener for the purposes of composing this review, I had to resort to vile, base acts and consort with those seedy individuals (one balks at calling them "people") whom any reasonable God would deem unworthy of entrance into Heaven.

Was it worth it, this journey into the underworld, this plunge into madness and deceit? All to see Repo! The Genetic Opera? Frankly, no. No, it was not. But seeing as how what is done remains done and my soul remains blighted with the tattoo of eternal shame, I hereby offer you the following assessment of this heavily-suppressed and nearly-impossible-to-access work.

So it's the future, right? And not the Jestons-esque, flying-cars-and-sassy-robot-maids future, either. I mean the Blade Runner-ish dystopian future where evil corporations run everything, everyone's miserable, there are giant LCD billboards everywhere, and it's always nighttime. You know the future I mean... the one that's in all those music videos from the Eighties, warning us of the dire consequences that would befall society if we didn't stop voting Republican or something. Well, we as a human race must've screwed up royally somewhere down the line, because in Repo! The Genetic Opera, a big ol' evil corporation called - get this - GeneCo is running things. GeneCo specializes in organ transplants, since "organ failure" is apparently a big problem in The Future. But it looks like some ne'er-do-wells can't keep up with the payments on their fancy new store-bought organs, so enter the Repo Man (or as the movie would have it, "Reeeeeep-ohhhhh Maaaaahhhnnnn!"), a mysterious masked figure who crudely reclaims hearts, lungs, and pancreata from hapless debtors, using only what appeared to be landscaping tools. Since there is no visible plant life in the future that I noticed, this may well be the only possible use for gardening shears.

Over the course of R!TGO's running time, we will learn much about this repossession man: his tragic past, his weird family (dead wife, bald daughter), and his connection to the corrupt family that runs GeneCo. And we will learn much about GeneCo as well. We will meet the company's dying CEO and his ungrateful bratlings, and we will witness first-hand the war of succession for the leadership of the company. Unfortunately, we will learn all of these things in the least-efficient manner possible - singing. In the future, you see, everyone sings all the time. It must be exhausting. A few more points of interest about the future:

· It's tough to determine whether paper still exists or not. We occasionally see actors pretending to read documents printed on sheets of clear plastic (talk about eye strain!), but traditional newspapers and magazines seem to have survived nicely.

· Mysteriously, such modern-day diversions as television, movies, the Internet, and video games have fallen out of favor, muscled aside by opera, which has come roaring back in a big way.

· Fashion-wise, we'll all be emulating the sartorial style of Edward Scissorhands. Perhaps ES was the one movie from our time which survived, and people from the future have misinterpreted it as an instructional video on What To Wear In Public.

And so it goes. Organs are repo'ed. Deep, dark, stinky secrets are revealed about almost everyone in the cast. And many, many songs are sung, though maybe it's just one really long song that lasts the entire length of the movie. The makers of this film have seen the future, and it is goth poseurs traipsing through a Fritz Lang-inspired theme park at night. Frankly, if the future is anything like this at all, I will eat Werner Herzog's shoe.

Bottom line: should you see R!TGO? Well, take a self-inventory. How many times have you seen Rocky Horror? A hundred? Several hundred? Do you still keep up with Marilyn Manson's career? Have you ever enlisted your cats in a homemade production of Sweeney Todd? Have you ever corrected someone on the pronunciation of "Grand Guignol?" If so, have I got a movie for you! Otherwise, you'd be better off trimming your toenails.


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Don't call it a comeba-- uh, on second thought, go right ahead and call it a comeback. In all sincerity, it's great to be back here at Unloosen! I notice I haven't posted anything here since January, when Mr. Clark and I completed our "Surefire Story Starters" project. I apologize for my prolonged absence. I'm afraid I caught ennui off a French toilet seat and lost interest in virtually everything for a while there. Forget completing stories or reviews! Heck, I couldn't even string together a haiku. At one point, I started reading a fortune cookie message and lost interest halfway. This review of "Repo! The Genetic Opera" marks my first completed work since my miraculous recovery. How much did you enjoy it? Please say a lot. Thank you.

A lot.

Seriously, I need to clip my toenails, so thanks reviewing this movie and sparing me a quiet 90 or so minutes. Sounds like steampunk-lite goes to a Troma-run summer camp for "dark kids." Back when I was film-festival-hopping in the early aughts, I met some guys in Kansas City who pretty much run a factory for B-movies. They literally care nothing for the art, they simply and unapologetically pump out bad movies for cash. Maybe you guys need to discover and review their oeuvre. Given their high frequency of releases, you'd probably have to post at least two or three reviews a week. If I could only remember what they're called...

It's probably just as well, Chris, since "Project: Fear Itself" appears to be getting back on track sooner than expected. I can't say for sure when the first entry will be posted, but I can tell you to watch the skies.

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This page contains a single entry by Craig J. Clark and Joe Blevins published on October 30, 2009 3:36 PM.

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Fear Itself: "Something with Bite" -- reviewed by Joe Blevins and Craig J. Clark is the next entry in this blog.

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