There are a lot of things to be said in defense of Repo! The Genetic Opera, and we're bound to hear plenty of them from horror apologists and Rocky Horror fans looking for the next big thing. For one, it's absurdly ambitious. Darren Lynn Bousman, who previously directed the middle three Saw movies, has created a dystopian future in which a private company, GeneCo, provides all organs for transplants and sics a Repo Man on people who can't make their payments. Not only that, but it's actually an opera, with some speak-singing Andrew Lloyd Webber-style and a good number of full-fledged musical numbers. The actors all dress like Tim Burton characters who got lost in a punk club, and side characters range from an heiress addicted to plastic surgery (played, hilariously enough, by Paris Hilton) to a grave robber who looks like a missing member of Korn.
With that much imagination in play, Repo! should be a fun lark, at least deserving of camp classic status if not moderate success in its first theatrical bow. But packed as it is with lugubrious songs, pitiful acting, and a plot that's sometimes nonsensical, but mostly unoriginal, Repo! is pretty much impossible to recommend. It's not bloody enough for horror fans, not silly enough for camp fans, and not interesting enough for anyone, really.
Despite the flashy presence of Hilton, Alexa Vega is actually the star as Shilo, the 17-year-old daughter of Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head), who is secretly one of the dreaded Repo Men, drafted into service by the head of GeneCo, Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino).See, Nathan was a doctor who tried to heal his sick wife Marni back in the day, but he accidentally killed her thanks to some shenanigans from Rotti, who Marni was actually sleeping with... well, you get the idea. Shilo has been kept inside thanks to a rare blood disease her father insists she has, but she makes it out the house only to be tricked by Rotti, who says he has a cure for her disease and the secret about her mother's death.
In the meantime, Rotti is trying to decide which of his reprehensible children will inherit GeneCo: Amber (Hilton), a plastic surgery addict, Pavi (Ogre), who wears a mask made from other peoples faces, or Luigi (Bill Moseley), who has a nasty temper. Also thrown into the mix is real-life opera singer Sarah Brightman as Blind Mag, involved in the plot but mostly here to add credibility to that "opera" part of the title.
The plot goes where it will, without much regard to structure or audience satisfaction, and the occasional good song and ever-surprising set design distract from the boredom that sets in about halfway through. Bousman has squandered a lot of potential from his unique premise, and rather than an epic horror comedy, he's turned in something surprisingly mundane. Maybe it will go on to the midnight movie status it's gunning for, but really, those audiences deserve something better.