Repo! The Genetic Opera

Rebecca: Wow, this is so bad, it’s almost good.
Enid: This is so bad, it’s gone past good and back to bad again.
(from “Ghost World”)

This movie is beyond anything you could imagine. As such, it might grow into a cult classic… Or just be remembered as a spectacularly misguided venture, who knows?

To give you an idea, it’s as if Troma produced the movie adaptation of an alternately catchy and noxious Tokio Hotel/Evanescence emo-metal comic book Broadway musical that was like a blendered version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Rent, and Moulin Rouge!, set in Joel Schumacher’s Gotham City and helmed by the director of three of the Saw sequels!

Entirely sung, with barely a story to connect what feels like a series of disconnected music videos, with a cast that includes Paul Sorvino, Skinny Puppy’s Nivek Ogre, Sarah Brightman and, of all people, Paris Hilton. I know, who wants to see her act and sing, right? Well, Repo! is so trashy that she fits right in, heh. I wouldn’t dare recommend it but, I have to say, I’m glad I saw it and got to talk about it with director Darren Lynn Bousman and star Alexa Vega, a few hours before Repo!’s world premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival.

From what I understand, finally getting the film ready to be shown to an audience has been a struggle, right?
DARREN LYNN BOUSMAN: “Repo! is something we’ve been trying to get made for a long time. It’s been an uphill battle, it’s been a very hard road, so we’re breathing a sight of relief that it’s finally being seen. I’ve been with it 8 years now.”

So you’ve been working on it since even before you started doing all those Saw movies?
D.L.B.: “I directed the stage version of it back in 2001 and finally, with the success of the Saw films, I was able to turn it into a movie. It’s like you putting your heart out there, and now we’ll see what they will do with it. They might squish it, they might kiss it, they might pee all over it…”

You mean, the studio?
D.L.B.: “The fans, I don’t really care about the studio”

But you need the studio to release it–
ALEXA VEGA: “It comes down to the fans. If the fans like it, then the studio will pump it. But if we don’t have a fanbase for it, the studio is not gonna stand behind it. It’s such a different, raw film, that we really need people to get a buzz on this movie in order to get the proper backing.”
D.L.B.: “Yeah, it comes down to the reactions. I don’t expect everyone to like it, in fact, it’s a movie that will alienate a lot of people–”

For sure!
D.L.B.: “But, that being said, there is a market for it and I think that, tonight, we’ll show them that. We sold out the screening last week, which is awesome.”

You said that it will alienate a lot of people but I think that, whether you like it or not, people will be curious about it.
D.L.B.: “Yeah, I think that people are interested to see it, because it’s got that kind of weird factor to it. I mean, to have a movie that stars Sarah Brightman and Paris Hilton and Alexa Vega, it’s such a weird, eclectic group of people, and they’re singing! It’s like, the guy who did Saw is doing a musical with Paris Hilton, why? I wanna exploit that curiosity factor.”

Have you always been a musical fan?
D.L.B.: “I’m a huge musical fan, I think that my favourite movies are musicals. I love Jesus Christ Superstar, the music still holds up today. I love Tommy, because it’s so psychedelic and trippy. I love Rocky Horror Picture Show, because it’s really got that, what the fuck am I watching? factor, and I love that. Hopefully, Repo! will hit people like those movies have.”

The thing is, a lot of people are turned off by musicals, and musical fans might be turned off by the gore…
D.L.B.: “Yeah, musical fans really don’t embrace horror, and horror fans really don’t embrace musicals. We basically punch them both in the face. You like musicals? Well, it’s a horror film. You like horror films? Well, it’s a musical. It’s a very niche movie, but our hope is that once the movie gets out there, it will appeal to a much bigger audience, because at the heart of the movie, it’s a very beautiful father-daughter love story.”
A.V.: “It’s a beautiful film, it has a lot of heart.”
D.L.B.: “It does. It’s easy to look at it and saw, aw, it’s about organ repossession, oh, it’s about organs being ripped out… But it’s really about selling your soul to the devil. Every character sells their soul, except for Alexas’s character, Shiloh. It’s about the purity and innocence of Shiloh, it’s a coming of age movie.”

I thought Alexa, you were really good in it. I’d heard you sing in one of the Spy Kids movies and I was like, oh, she can sing. But here, we really get to see and hear a lot more–
A.V.: “(giggles) Thank you! It really was exciting, and so different and unique. I really feel that this film will inspire a lot of other filmmakers, and you’re gonna see more movies doing things like Repo!, because of Repo!. And I’m just happy to be a part of that.”
D.L.B.: “I’m sick of seeing the same movies redone, rehashed, sequelized, remade… I wanted to do something completely original, that people hadn’t seen before. I wanna see new, original pieces of art. I wanted to do something completely crazy and, again, that will alienate a lot of people. If you walk in thinking gonna see a Saw movie, you’re wrong, you’re gonna hate it. But if you walk knowing it’s something different, something you haven’t seen before, it’s a whole other experience… I don’t care if people hate the movie, but I want people to talk about it.”

Now, I have to ask: Paris Hilton. How did that happen?
D.L.B.: “I don’t remember how her name came up but at first, I was like, no, this movie has credibility, we can’t put Paris Hilton in it! But then she met with us and she was so not what I expected that it made me stop, and I was like, she’s kinda cool. And she was perfect for what the character is. I don’t think that you can watch the movie and say: Paris Hilton sucks! She doesn’t suck, she’s good in the movie. She transforms and blends in the movie.”
A.V.: “She was really good. I think a lot of people are gonna be shocked by her performance, because they know the glammed up Paris Hilton, the blonde, (doing a dead-on Paris impression), that’s hot, Paris Hilton. But this–”
D.L.B.: “This is the down and dirty Paris Hilton!”

What about you, Alexa, what do you hope this movie will do for you?
A.V.: “I feel like it’s opened up a completely new world. It tested a lot of, like, what I was capable of as an actress, because it really was nothing I had done before.”

It really breaks your image, because we’ve pretty much only seen you in kids movies.–
A.V.: “Yeah! Most people know me as, like, that little girl, and what’s really great about this film is that it does a transition, not only on screen, but for me as an actress. When you watch Shiloh, she starts out as this sweet, innocent little girl, who goes through her teenage experience and, at the end of the film, becomes a young woman having to make these really difficult decisions. And if you watch her transition, that’s exactly what I hope for. Usually, it takes 3 or 4 movies to get people to go oh, she’s not a little girl anymore. Well, in this movie, I had it all in one, it’s all done in Repo! for me. The audience gets to watch me become a young woman, and that’s exactly what I was looking for.”

It’s funny, when I was telling people I was gonna interview you, they all said, oh, you’re gonna meet the little girl from the Spy Kids movies? But having seen Repo!, I was like, um–
A.V.: “(laughing) she’s not as little!”
D.L.B.: “She’s damn sexy in that movie!”

***

Repo! premieres Friday, July 18th at the Fantasia Film Festival and should open across North America on November 7th.