Revisiting Toronto After Dark 2008: Repo! The Genetic Opera

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Toronto After Dark, I will be revisiting one film from each year of the festival. Please be aware that these discussions may include SPOILERS.

It can be argued that the third edition of Toronto After Dark was the year that the festival really started to get its legs. Some of the highlights from this edition of the festival include Let the Right One In, which won the audience award that year, as well as Yoshihiro Nishimura’s Tokyo Gore Police. Then of course there is Darren Lynn Bousman’s darkly humorous horror-musical Repo! The Genetic Opera, which will be the film that I am revisiting today.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is the brainchild of the duo of Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich, who has originally developed this rock opera as a stage production in 2002, which was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who would later become known for directing the second through fourth films of the Saw series. In some ways, the film version of Repo! The Genetic Opera became a pet project for Bousman, who directed a ten minute short film, which would work as a proof of concept of the final film.

One thing that that has always apparent to me about Repo! The Genetic Opera is that it is a film with a very weird plot, but some pretty well done songs. Being designated as an opera, there is very few lines of spoken dialogue, with most of the conversations happening through song. However, there are some some individual musical numbers that stand out in the film, such as the incredibly catchy “Zydrate Anatomy” or the melancholy ballad “I Didn’t Know I’d Love You So Much.” Without a doubt, the songs are the glue that sticks Repo! The Genetic Opera, since its surreal futuristic landscapes, odd characters, and mix of horror and dark humour might turn off some viewers.

While it can be undoubtedly be said that Repo! The Genetic Opera has developed a bit of a cult following in its seven years of existence, I don’t think it has reached the level of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, despite some early attempts to have some ShadowCast screenings of the film. Darren Lynn Bousman had hoped to make a sequel to Repo! The Genetic Opera, but the plans never came about. Instead, he re-teamed with Terrance Zdunich and much of the cast of Repo! and directed the hour long horror-musical The Devil’s Carnival in 2012, which was followed up this year by the feature-length sequel Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival.

Without a doubt Repo! The Genetic Opera is not a film that is for everyone, however I have to say that I have become more a fan of this weird and violent rock opera with each successive viewing.

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).