I should have written this up after I saw this at TADFF. That would have been the proper thing to do but this was just one of those movies that I really wanted to write up but somehow found myself stymied to come up with a review. But with the one week of screenings starting tonight here in Toronto at our beloved Bloor Cinema the time is right to chime in. Love triangles, family betrayal, secrets and lies are all en vogue as Repo! delves into sonic darkness
Repo! takes place in the near future when an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet and the scientific community gears up for a massive organ harvest. A biotech corporation, Genco, comes up with easy organ payment plans. Need a heart? Why not put that new one on easy monthly installments? How about that spine? Spread that hefty fee over time instead of today. But, these organs are subject to legal default, failure to meet your payments could include repossession at the hands of Genco's repo men. You thinking missing payments on your car is bad? Hardly.
There are all sorts of things to praise Repo! for. There is the music and I always love me a bit of the rock and the roll from time to time and have had enough friends in musical theatre to have a vague appreciation for it. The sets and the art design were pretty good too. Some may balk at the hazy, dreamy look of the film but it would be hardly suited for any other type of production. I liked it here. It certainly is a gloomier film than others of its music theatre ilk but you cannot be Goth if you're singing and dancing amongst the daffodils and buttercups, can you?
The cast is something exceptional. Not for a second did I realize that Sophia is Alexa Vega from Spy Kids. Neither was Paris Hilton instantly recognizable either. Depending who you talk to that can be a good thing or a bad thing. I will say though that there is a grim satisfaction watching Paris 'lose face' in the film. Sarah Brightman is gorgeous and having an established opera artist in your cast instantly adds credibility. Bill Moseley and Nivek Ogre from Skinny Puppy hold there own and add just the right amount of dementia to their sinister and sadistic roles. And I had no idea that Anthony Head could belt out a tune that well. Dude has pipes.
The combination of horror and humour may be that point which divides the audience. This ain't your Singing in the Rain, unless the rain turned to blood and instead of singing you were crying for mercy- in tune! Repo! is surprisingly violent; more violent and bloody than I would have ever expected. Granted, I should have expected it given the context of the film revolves around organ sales and repossession. Hooray for ignorance! But there is more than enough of a horror element to Repo! to satisfy even the most morbid and bloodthirsty of fans.
The target audience is my hang up here. At TADFF I was standing outside waiting to be let into the theatre and I am sure I saw more knee high leather boots than a Communist China Military dress party, and quite possibly more makeup on dudes than chicks. And when you tout yourselves as a Gothic Rock Opera it won't matter how many headliners you have in your cast you start to scare mainstreamers away thus minimizing your numbers. The concern is that Repo! is just not accessible enough for a mainstream audience. But in the end does it matter? Depends who you're talking to. To the creative team behind the film? It shouldn't. This film gestated from small 10 minute theatre productions going back ten years now. How about the guys crunching the numbers? You would think so wouldn't you? But you don't go ahead a green light a project like this if you're no sure you're not going to get at least something out of it. You just don't make movies in a major studio for shits and giggles. Repo's target audience must be substantial enough for Lionsgate to have assumed the risk was worth it. Keeping in mind that some of the audience drove hours just to be there, in costume, has to say something. There is an audience out there as sold out screenings in Los Angeles in past weeks have proven.
So go on, be you devoted or curious. A film like Repo! doesn’t come along every day. It might just awaken that inner Goth you never knew existed. And kudos must go to filmmaker Darren Lynn Bousman and Lionsgate for having the testicular fortitude to see this come to fruition. This is courageous filmmaking.