Repo! The Genetic Opera

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Friday, Nov. 7 (Lionsgate)

Revealing influences ranging from “Rocky Horror Picture Show” to “Sweeney Todd” to the unjustly forgotten “Phantom of the Paradise,” “Repo! The Genetic Opera” is a low-budget horror tuner desperately looking to achieve cult status. Clearly unsuitable for viewing any time before midnight, this schlocky enterprise adapted from a stage musical is infused with plenty of gore (courtesy of director Darren Lynn Bousman, veteran of several of the “Saw” movies), but the real scares come from the inane story line and mediocre musical score.

Using graphic intertitles that give the proceedings the feel of a comic book, the film is set in the not-too-distant future and centers on the GeneCo company, which specializes in providing body parts for a price. Headed by the villainous Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino, finally getting the chance to unveil his impressive pipes onscreen), the company is rather unforgiving to clients late on their payments: As the graphically bloody opening scene illustrates, their “Repo Man,” Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head), will repossess organs by whatever surgical means necessary.  

Other characters in the gothic proceedings include Nathan’s sweethearted daughter Shiloh (Alexa Vega), afflicted with a rare disease; Rotti’s demonic sons (Ogre, of the band Skinny Puppy, and Bill Moseley) and cosmetic surgery-addicted daughter (Paris Hilton, in an example of futuristic typecasting); a blind opera singer (Sarah Brightman); and a colorful grave robber (co-writer Terrance Zdunich).

The sung-through musical score somehow manages to contain not a single memorable song, though the performers give it their undeniable all. Much like Bousman’s “Saw” films, the sepia-toned visuals are drearily muddy, though the outlandish costumes and make-up provide some visual distractions.

Ultimately, the most imaginative aspect of the film is the casting, which brings together such disparate performers as the theater veteran Sorvino, the tabloid queen Hilton, the operatic pop star Brightman, the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” alum Head and the goth band veteran Ogre to truly surreal effect.

Production: Twisted Pictures.
Cast: Anthony Stewart Head, Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, Terrance Zdunich, Bill Moseley, Ogre, Paris Hilton, Sarah Brightman.
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman.
Screenwriters: Darren Smith, Terrance Zdunich.
Producers: Daniel Jason Heffner, Carl Mazzocone, Oren Koules, Mark Burg.
Executive producers: Darren Lynn Bousman, Peter Block, Jason Constantine, Jonathan McHugh, Tim Palen, Sarah Greenberg. Rated R, 97 minutes.
Director of photography: Joseph White
Production designer: David Hackl
Music: Darren Smith, Terrance Zdunich
Costume designer: Alex Kavanaugh
Editor: Harvey Rosenstock

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