Whenever the subject of “horror musicals” comes up, most fans immediately conjure up images of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Nightmare Before Christmas. And while both of these are classics in their own right, there’s another film that deserves to be proudly remembered with them.
The original stage play debuted in 2002 as a sort of underground, very off Broadway production. But its unique subject matter gained it a cult following enough to warrant a feature film.
And why shouldn’t it? One of the most controversial political discussions of the last decade has been how healthcare should be administered.
We all agree it’s a broken system, but no one seems to agree on how to properly fix it. As of now, organs can only be procured via donors, but if there was a way for a company to artificially produce them, they would be in very high demand and very expensive.
In just a matter of time, companies like GeneCo would start to lobby Congress to make organ repossession legal. We can all think of a few current senators who would probably vote for that very bill today.
In addition to the fascinating concept, the film plays out almost like a Shakespearean tragedy. The film offers a cast of characters who are all flawed and many of whom have great tragedy and drama with each other.
Between the wealthy Largo family essentially ruling the world, to the guilt ridden Nathan Wallace who moonlights as the Repo Man, to the brilliantly talented singer Mag who feels trapped, and of course the daughter Shiloh who just wants to see the world.
Sure a lot of the character interactions seem melodramatic and soap opera-like but that’s sort of the point. The story involves an opera, but the plot itself is meant to be one as well.
It even follows the tropes of a typical musical drama with most of the dialogue being sung as well as a tragic ending. It’s just silly enough to be fun, but takes itself seriously in the musical department.
Speaking of the music, that’s one of the film’s strongest highlights. While Rocky Horror may boast “The Time Warp” and Nightmare Before Christmas showcases “This is Halloween”, Repo! offers its audience something truly special.
Most musicals seem to follow the instrumental and lyrical pattern of show tunes. The songs are usually very large and upbeat in nature, but they all have that familiar and distinct Broadway sound, as if they were designed to go hand in hand with dance numbers.
And while there’s nothing wrong with that, sometimes it’s fun to get something a little different. This film delivers on a brilliantly awesome gothic rock aesthetic.
Many of the songs could easily be enjoyed even without having seen the film. Joan Jett of The Runaways even makes an appearance playing guitar during one song. If that doesn’t give this film rock credit, nothing will!
Joan Jett isn’t the only famous face of the music world to appear in the film. While she gets a mere cameo, Paul Sorvino and Sarah Brightman both play main characters. Sorvino is most famous for appearing in Goodfellas but he also has experience singing opera and it really shows in Repo!
His loud and booming voice belts out notes that few others could hit or hold as long as he does. Brightman was famously married to Broadway composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (co-creator of “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera”). Her own Broadway resume speaks for itself and her voice is considered by many to be one of the greatest in the world.
The casting of both of these actors helped elevate the film from a potential gimmick to a real musical to be contended with. Some were critical of the casting of Paris Hilton as Amber Sweet.
And while it’s true that she’s not a trained actress and has little acting skill, the fact that she’s playing a spoiled, rich heiress is sort of fitting. In an odd way, she’s playing a satirical version of herself, so it kind of works.
Between the brilliant casting, the oddball storyline, and the kickass rock soundtrack, Repo! The Genetic Opera is unlike any other film, and that’s very much the point. Goth and punk rock has always been about not conforming to the norm and going one’s own way.
And the film truly represents that sentiment. As director Darren Lynn Bousman described upon its release, “This isn’t your parents’ opera!”
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