After recently seeing a trailer for this intriguing film I couldn’t get the idea that Repo was some sort of futuristic Rocky Horror Show and to my complete satisfaction that is exactly what it is, a campy, mad sci-fi caper filled with ludicrous musical numbers.
If you have ever read Spares by Michael Marshall Smith, seen The Island or been in the audience for Queen’s stage show We Will Rock You at the theatre then you will have some idea of where Repo comes from: a dark mix of futuristic madness with one or two rock musical numbers thrown in for good measure. A mix of Brazil, Blade Runner and Marylyn Manson videos, the film of the play (if that makes sense) is a mad mix of every cyberpunk concept washed down with, gore, glitter, glam and over the top campness and regurgitated as an insane neon/noir splat of dayglow puke horror. It turns out, quite frankly, to be great.
The whole cast is a b-movie lover’s or sci-fi nerd’s dream. Starting with the main star of the movie, Alexa Vega. Some might remember her as Carmen from the underrated trilogy of Spy Kids movies (and if you stayed through the end credits of these movies, it shows she can actually sing), and here she plays Shilo Wallace, a girl who has been imprisoned in her own house, supposedly because of a blood disease by an over-protective father (Tony Head – who we’ll come onto in a minute). With the help of secret passages and glow-in-the-dark insects, escapes she finds the stark cyber-punk future where she meets Graverobber played by Repo writer Terrance Zdunich who explains, as a sort of narrator, how this new world works and how people have taken body modification to extreme lengths. They now buy and sell parts courtesy of GeneCo, a genetic company whose far reaching business runs every corner of this dystopian future, mostly through Zydrate, a drug used by addicts of body surgery, which Graverobber explains is harvested from the brains of corpses and peddled to addicts.
GeneCo, of course, is not a benevolent, happy, people-facing company and is willing to give people exactly what they want, at a price. However, not everyone can pay for the parts they have taken and to make sure that GeneCo get paid, they have on their book the Repo Man who takes back GeneCo’s property by any means necessary. Added to this is the fact that Shilo’s dad Nathan is, in fact, the Repo Man and that when he goes out to work every day he is re-taking people’s eyes, body parts and generally leaving people in a far worse state than he found them.
So then we come to Anthony Head who really shows off his singing ‘talents’ in the movie. For those of you who remember the Buffy episode Once More With Feeling you will be aware of Tony Head’s ability to sing. I’m not passing judgement, of course, as I have the singing voice of Darth Vader, but really, a career move of going into musical theatre or chasing the obvious dream of rock and roll superstar really should be put on the back burner. Instead, maybe (take a hint) he should concentrate on getting the forever promised Ripper off the ground. Go on, Tony, give Joss a ring. Make it work (please).
So with Mr Head’s singing voice not really up to scratch, what actually saves this insane mess?
Well, everything, really, as it’s just so insane it’s fantastic. With over the top musical numbers, a wardrobe design that has mixed up Blade Runner and Power Rangers‘ costume box and sets that have been begged, stolen and borrowed from every cancelled show on the Sci-Fi Channel, the entire thing is just so over the top it works. Added to this there is also Sarah Brightman hamming it up even more than in the video of I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper and there is even a cameo from Paris Hilton added to the mix. In short, you have a camp treat that, although not as catchy as say Rocky Horror, will find its own audience of b-movie fans and late night video watchers for years to come.
The movie comes with a few notable extras which include two commentaries but, more interestingly a couple of little documentaries. First up is ‘From State to Screen’ that nicely filled me in with the history of the film and secondly a quick but cool documentary called ‘Legal Assassin’ which is to do with the history and job of a Repo Man.
I must admit that this is a film that you will either love or hate. My girlfriend got bored after a quarter of an hour and moved her attention back to her Nintendo DS while I endured the entire hour and a half of madness. I really like ‘some’ musicals with Little Shop Of Horrors being a favourite of mine and this is what, in many ways, this reminds me of, a dark black ‘comedy’ mixed up with some passable tunes and some decent people to sing them. Overall, Repo can be summed up as an oddity, a sort of Rocky Horror for the torture porn generation.