Repo! The Genetic Opera is a brilliantly gory addition to the musical genre, but it doesn’t get nearly as much love as it deserves. When we think about movie musicals, it’s usually the showy Technicolor musicals of yesteryear like Singin’ In The Rain or West Side Story that spring to mind, or perhaps more recent classics like Grease or La La Land.
One often-overlooked subset of the genre are horror musicals, which usually don’t get a great deal of attention. Of course, there are exceptions like the recent zombie musical Anna And The Apocalypse which got rave reviews, or Oscar-nominated offerings like Little Shop Of Horrors or Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street, but by and large horror musicals are underappreciated. Even the most famous example, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, was panned upon release and how often do people extol the virtues of a film like Cannibal: The Musical?
Case in point: Repo! The Genetic Opera, which is probably the most underrated of them all. The film started as a stage play conceived by Terrance Zdunich and Darren Smith, before being adapted into a short helmed by Saw franchise director Darren Lynn Bousman to convince studios to stump up the cash for a film version. Repo! The Genetic Opera takes place in a not-too-distant dystopian future in which a worldwide organ failure epidemic has taken place. To address the problem, megacorporation GeneCo provides organ transplants but they come at a hefty price, and those who fail to keep up payments are hunted down by Repo Men who repossess the organs in a very gory - and usually fatal - manner.
One of those Repo Men is Nathan Wallace (Anthony Stewart Head) who was blackmailed into the job by GeneCo president Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino). He keeps his job a secret from his teenage daughter Shilo (Alexa Vega) who he’s also lied to about inheriting a rare blood disease from her mother to keep her confined to their house and safe from the outside world. Rounding out the cast are opera singer Sarah Brightman (The Phantom Of The Opera), Repo! The Genetic Opera’s co-creator Terrance Zdunich as a graverobber and Paris Hilton, Bill Moseley and Skinny Puppy vocalist Nivek Ogre as Rotti’s horrible children.
Admittedly, Repo! The Genetic Opera is a low budget affair and it’s an oddity even in what’s already a pretty odd subgenre. Yet it’s an atypical take on the movie musical with a unique plot and some great music numbers, even if they are more goth rock than show tune-style songs. Like a lot of other horror musicals, Repo! The Genetic Opera has gained a cult following since its 2008 release but it’s high time it got more attention.