Every great film is bad. East of Eden, The Godfather, Titanic, and Avatar, just to name a few; are great, horrible films. Be it the story, sound, cinematography, editing, etc., there are some less than desirable and often down right awful aesthetics in every motion picture. But as reasonable people, we understand that none of us are perfect and therefor none of us will ever produce perfect work, so we forgive or ignore the bad. We are able to appreciate the working elements and hail these films as the masterpieces they are...sometimes.
There are some films that do not receive this empathy. 2008's Repo! The Genetic Opera is one such film. It's a futuristic story about a corrupt biotech company offering transplants and addictive pain killers to a society dependent on the procedures. If payments for surgery are not made on time, the people become victims of a fatal and gory repossession of those organs. Critics canned this film the second it was released, complaining of bad music, over-the-top acting, and a general hokeyness.
It also took some heat for being directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, director of three of the critically despised Saw films. But despite the blood, guts, and gore, the biggest and most talked about horror was that the film featured media train wreck Paris Hilton. She is a celebrity that people love to hate. Paris Hilton could have given a Barbara Streisand caliber performance and the film would still have gotten panned.
All these elements that the critics complained of actually contributed to the film's popularity. Bad music, over-the-top acting, and hokeyness are three key ingredients of any musical. There is something intrinsically and undeniably tacky about a film where the characters spontaneously break out in song. Add actors of questionable talent, snazzy theatrics, and a twisted plot, then you've got gaudy, campy, B list gold.
Opening in only seven theaters and getting slammed by critics, Repo! didn't have a very auspicious start, but its lurid, obnoxious, campiness quickly catapulted it into the Rocky Horror Picture Show level cult classic stratum. Most critics who reviewed this film failed to realize that there is a whole audience out there who live for these overblown cinematic spectacles, and Repo! was just that.
It was often times very heavy handed, with exhausting musical numbers, quick cuts, and stilted dialogue. It was nothing short of tacky, but intentionally so. While many people went into the film expecting a somewhat understated version of the Repo! stage play, as most musicals adapted from plays are, they instead got an exaggerated, theatrical production. Everything about the film was over-the-top. It had non of the subtlety we have come to expect in film, and for that the critics deemed it a horrible movie.
Many were never even able to allow themselves to appreciate the many mind-blowing aesthetics. On many levels this film was good, not so bad it's good, but genuinely, very good, a masterpiece even. The whole miss-en-scene was absolutely stunning. It was glamorous yet gritty, fantastical yet real. The hair, make-up, costumes, set design, and cinematography all helped breath life into this twisted story.
The premise is also very unique. The social and political themes are very relevant to contemporary society. Corrupt drug companies, cosmetic surgery addiction, illegal drug businesses, and repossession all speak to our image obsessed, hedonistic, economically devastated world at present. It's actually a frighteningly realistic look at what could be our bleak future.
Repo! The Genetic Opera definitely does not get the credit it deserves for being the artistic marvel that it is. Though there are so many elements of this film that are nothing short of genius, critics decided to ignore them and talk about those they perceived as faults in the film. Even the casting of Paris Hilton as Amber Sweets, a gross caricature of Hilton's real life persona was absolutely genius. Fortunately, this film has found a place in that campy cult classic genre. It will be forever loved and remembered by those B movie enthusiasts who are able to appreciate the message, recognize the genius, and even find beauty in its "faults." It's our Rocky Horror Picture Show.