In the not-so-distant future, a plague sweeps the globe and humanity turns to genetic modification and surgery to save itself from extinction. Repo! The Genetic Opera takes place in this blood-soaked dystopia with a cast selected for their singing ability, acting, or aesthetic (mostly aesthetic). With an excess of fishnets and sexualization of both men and women, Repo! picks up where The Rocky Horror Picture Show left off. The music is composed of electric guitars, rolling drums, and vocals that could be better as spoken word. There is very little plot development that is not incorporated in song; the entire movie feels more like a collection of music videos.
From a woman gouging out her eyes during an unconventional opera, to a man in charge of repossessing organs from the living and then using his victims as flesh puppets, Repo! puts new meaning to blood, sweat, and tears in theatre.
Shilo Wallace is a teenager plagued with a blood disease inherited from her dead mother. Her father is obsessive with her care and treatment and confines her to her room while feeding her medication on a strict regiment. By the end of the musical, Shilo discovers that the medicine her father had been administrating was actually a poison to keep her sick so that she could never leave him. She realizes that her existence is not defined by her genetics alone and steps into personal freedom.
For all its originality, there are tired storylines strung through the film, such as the angsty teenager who hates her doting dad, the dying billionaire who despises his potential heirs, the doctor who goes nuts after accidentally murdering his wife, the usual fare. Where Repo! excels is in its highly stylized presentation of the traditional plotlines as it makes use of comic panels to reveal backstory, and clashes gothic wardrobes with a dilapidated sci-fi setting. The movie has a lot of surreal moments; a grave robber claps his hands with glee at the sight of a mound of corpses, a teen’s bedroom transforms into a punk show as her father scolds her, and Paris Hilton’s face falls straight off.
While Repo! may not contain earth-shattering musical performances, it does present itself with style and some honest originality. The show paints a dire future for mankind where existence is defined by the amount of money that can be spent on surgical enhancements. Through all the doom and gloom there is still a small seed of hope when Shilo rejects being defined by her genetics. Repo! flaunts this message with its disregard for the standard elements of theatre as it swaps out elaborate dance numbers for extreme violence.
Steve is a second-year student of Algonquin College’s Professional Writing program. He spends most of his days dwelling in the depths of a restaurant’s kitchen. When not slaving over a hot stove, Steve can be found hunched over a keyboard, pounding out a review of Germany’s latest post-ambient, country sludge metal band. His incoherent ramblings are graciously hosted on Metalblast(dot)net.