Sound: If you've got an automatic aversion towards musicals or operas, you might have already formed an opinion of Repo! The Genetic Opera before you've seen the film or heard the soundtrack. That would be a mistake. Put aside what you might have seen before (I.e., Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar) because the Repo! soundtrack is quite a unique trip. First of all, the filmmakers have stated that they set out to make it a Blade-Runner-meets-Rocky Horror type of creation, but that doesn't even begin to describe just what exactly Repo! is all about. It has the distinct futuristic vibe of Blade Runner and an over-the-top quality like Rocky Horror, but you've got to throw in a lot more horror, blood, drama, and metal music into the equation.
While I have only had an opportunity to hear the soundtrack and see film snippets on the Web, I was able to find a good deal of information on how the idea came about in the first place. It all started out with two musicians, Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich, constructing 10-minute mini-rock-operas at local venues. That grew into an all-out stage show, which eventually transformed into the Darren Lynn Bousman-directed (Saw II, Saw III) film Repo! The Genetic Opera. And the plot? Somewhere in the future humans' organs are failing at an alarming rate, causing a surge in the organ transplant industry. But don't forget to pay for those organs, or repo men will come to take back their rightful hearts, livers, kidneys, and the like.
With a gruesome plot like that, it's only appropriate that the music has an eerie feel. Yes, there is some opera, but it has a darker feel like you might get in a Requiem mass. Supplying most of the traditional opera vocals is diva Sarah Brightman and actor Paul Sorvino, who has an awe-inspiring set of pipes as well. Providing more of a rock opera vibe is Buffy The Vampire Slayer alum Anthony Head, who consistently gives convincing performance as Nathan Wallace, a dedicated father who leads a double life as a dreaded repo man. There is a fascinating supporting cast, with everyone from Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy to Alexa Vega (Spy Kids) to, gulp, Paris Hilton showing up in a key roles. The fact that Hilton is in the film may be a huge turn-off to many of you (it made my skin crawl a bit), but her vocals are strong in the sultry sense and fit the inheritance-thirsty character she portrays.
Musically, the Repo! soundtrack is a diverse, engrossing one. At The Opera Tonight features an oddly interesting hybrid of traditional operatic vocals and electric guitars, while Crucifixus is a beautifully haunting opera tune. The studio musicians make up an impressive crew as well, with Filter's Richard Patrick, Slipknot's Clown, Jane's Addiction's Stephen Perkins, and Guns N' Roses' guitarist Richard Fortus among the many, many big names attached to the project. There is a distinct rock-meets-industrial vibe throughout, with Things You See In A Graveyard, Legal Assassin, and We Started This Op'ra Shit as the highlights. Whenever the younger character Shiloh (Alexa Vega) has a solo things do tend to move to more of an emo vibe, which although slightly annoying, is probably appropriate for the role of an angst-ridden teenager. There is enough diversity throughout that the soundtrack does hold your attention, however, and it leans more often than not toward the industrial genre. // 9
Lyrics: There is certainly a dramatic flair on Repo!, but it's completely appropriate in this case. Because all of the dialogue in a rock opera is sung, you often get short-but-sweet songs that are created pretty much to deliver that dialogue in a speedy fashion. The aspect that gives the lyrics in Repo! an edge is the fact that they deal with such a bloodcurdling topic. Probably the best example comes in Thankless Job, in which the character of Nathan basically gives the audience a brief description of his job as a repo man. He sings, It's a thankless job; But somebody's got to do it; Peeling off the tissue inch by inchSavin' up the livers in my fridge; No one ever thanks me when I'm done. If you are not bothered by a little blood and guts, the twisted futuristic theme that fuels Repo! definitely keeps your interest. // 9
Overall Impression: Repo! The Genetic Opera has cult classic written all over it, and if you haven't had the opportunity, go and check out the trailer on YouTube. There are plenty of rock operas out there, but this is one in which it seems perfectly natural to hear distortion-laden guitars in one moment and a harpsichord in the next. Quite a few tracks on the soundtrack will immediately get stuck in your head, and that's a pretty good sign that the songwriters have written something that is accessible to a big audience. There are plenty of well-known players in the cast, but interestingly enough it is Terrance Zdunich (GraveRobber) and Darren Smith (Band Leader) - who just happen to also be the men behind the written music - that are the most engaging in the end. // 9