Schlocked and Loaded #2 – “REPO! The Genetic Opera”

 

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THE MOVIE

REPO takes place in a dystopian future where about a tenth of the world’s population has fallen to a organ-ravaging disease. The nefarious GeneCo can get you a transplant, but at a hefty price. You know how if you default on car payments, the dealer can repossess the car? Same with organs. But this is no neat little surgery; the Repo Men will track you down and “rip the still-beating heart from your chest.” Cute little concept, right?

The movie spirals downward into a gory and paranoid squabble about the fate of GeneCo, since the CEO is dying. His children are respectively a murderer, a rapist, and a junkie, so he dips outside the family tree to make his top Repo Man’s daughter his heir, whether she likes it or not. All the crossed wires and fractured relationships come to a head at the Genetic Opera, GeneCo’s flashy way of promoting their surgical procedures. The show ends with a body count, and the audience is left equal parts appalled and kinda inspired.

 

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THE ALLURE

What’s not to like? You’ve got a wacky plot, sick music, unique characters, and hitmen in raincoats pulling people’s spines out! You’ve got drug dealers, confetti, plastic surgery, insects, hookers, and revenge! Instant classic!

But what really got butts in chairs in the first place was the lineup. Shilo is Alexa Vega (Spy Kids). Nathan is Anthony Stewart Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Rotti is Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas). His kids are Nivek Ogre (frontman for Skinny Puppy), Bill Moseley (House of 1000 Corpses), and Paris Freakin’ Hilton. The rest of the cast is filled out by queen bee soprano Sarah Brightman and one of the writers/composers, Terrance “TZ” Zdunich. One of the executive producers was Yoshiki Hayashi of X-Japan, and he had a new song in the ending credits. Melora Creager of Rasputina played the cello on the soundtrack. There’s even a cameo from Joan Jett because why not. These big names got people’s attention.

REPO was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, aka DLB, whose claim to fame is Saw II and III. Fun fact: DLB requested an intricate graveyard set and shoehorned it into Saw III as an excuse to use it for greater mileage in REPO. His love of violence is present as always. However, he toned down the brutal jaw-cracking nausea, replacing it with goofiness like stabbing a woman and then literally tearing her heart out. That pretty much sets the tone for this movie; gross subject material somehow tempered by how outrageous it is.

 

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THE “FAILURE”

Obviously, REPO was a huge gamble. The composers were absolute nobodies, the director had 2 hits but was hardly a household name, and star power was minimal since the cast members appealed to very niche audiences (except Paris Hilton, literally everyone wants to see Paris Hilton’s face fall clean off mid-performance). Thanks to DLB’s prior success with Lionsgate, the company agreed to distribute REPO, but under stringent conditions: they would only put the movie on a measly 10 screens worldwide, which would leave most potential viewers stuck in the mud until the DVD release.

So, the studio screws you over on your hard-earned camp monstrosity because there’s “no audience for it.” Some people would claw and scratch for a better deal, and others would keel over and take it. Instead, DLB and TZ (collectively knows as DLBerrance) took things into their own hands.

 

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THE CULT

Knowing that the best advertising gambit is word of mouth, DLBerrance banked on help from a fledgling fanbase to rack up even more views. They released the soundtrack (minus a few minor tracks and the spoiler-laden finale) months before the movie premiered, and it spread like wildfire, especially among prior fans of the cast. They were outraged that their newest obsession might not get a theatrical screening, so under DLBerrance’s guidance, they began a guerrilla marketing campaign to show Lionsgate just how much of an interest there really was. Thus the REPO Army was born.

Here’s where I admit that “they” included me, at age 15. With the REPO Army, I designed my own paper dolls of the characters, scrawled the URL for the REPO website on the back, and scattered them around Chicago. Train stations, schools, video rental stores, you name it. I knew some folks who took up the cause via graffiti or flash mobs instead. Pretty much anything a horde of giddy high schoolers and college students (and some older) could do to raise the hype. Unfortunately, the efforts did nothing to change Lionsgate’s mind about the theatrical release, but they did prove to DLBerrance that they were sitting on something worthwhile. If the fans couldn’t go see the movie, the movie could go see the fans.

The Repo Road Tour went from November 10-17. It hit one city per night, including Seattle, Chicago, and Orlando. DLBerrance scrounged up every cent in their pockets and toured America with a reel of REPO, meeting and greeting their devoted. The meaty anticipation from the soundtrack and clips generated even more energy than if the audience only just seen the whole thing for the first time. Heck, if that was the case, the Road Tour may not have happened. And the first was so successful that DLBerrance packed up for two more.

Now that everyone had actually seen the dang thing, citywide factions of fans formed Rocky Horror-esque shadow casts, screaming the lyrics to every song and some of their own jokes. Rocky Horror is old enough that its fans have morphed into a hive mind, but since REPO’s so new, it’s more of a messy free-for-all with individuals haphazardly piping up.

REPO’s cult is still in its infancy, at least compared to most of the other movies we’ll cover on Schlocked and Loaded. Time will tell how long the fandom lasts, whether it’ll keep drawing new fans or the Road Tour-era adherents are the only ones passionate enough to keep up a cult following and not just a lukewarm “oh yeah I saw that once, it was fun, I guess.” Let’s test this out now: if you made it through this whole article and you’re still interested, go watch REPO. Especially if you like mindless violence, self-indulgent rock, and switching off your sense of good taste for 98 minutes. Go keep the madness alive!

FairyGodmoose (12 Posts)

Hey folks, I'm FairyGodmoose (Figgy for short)! I gravitate toward cult films, kids shows, and a whole mess of whatnot in-between.