Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Zane of My Exiztenze

Children of the 21st century, gather around my flatscreen yule log as we tiptoe back in time to a simpler period of cinema history, when super heroes wore tights and Tales From the Crypt went Hollywood. Only in this era (known by common folk as the mid-90s) could one thick-voiced thespian with a shiny bald head and constant scowl head a major summer release in purple spandex. It saddens me to reminisce, but thinking about the slipping career of the mangod that is Billy Zane gives me one more reason to doubt the order of evolution.

Browsing through the horror catalogue of the NY Public Library, I came upon a recent DVD starring le Zane (oooh, that’s good) and Stephen Baldwin (oooh, that’s bad), featuring crop circles (hmm, that might be good) that "unleash unfathomable terror" upon a “close-knit group” (I’ll stop reading the back of the box now). The description is lacking, but let’s face it: there’s no way I’m turning down a Billy Zane vs. aliens flick, especially in these dark ages where such a vehicle seems so inexplicably hard to find.

If IMDB is to be trusted, Silent Warnings was filmed in under twelve days, so I can't be too hard on it. C'mon. It takes more time to celebrate Kwanza or grease Zane into his Phantom costume. I'll tread lightly on this little Belgium-filmed thriller, which comes close to creating genuine suspense before terribly rendered Nintendo 64 quality CGI chokes up the final act.

Quick Plot: We open with PC Baldwin (post-Christian) given far too much free reign to improvise a one-man survivalist video diary as an unseen menace attacks his farmhouse. It's amazing how badly this former addict plays a man taking a few drinks, but at least he seems to be having a good time firing a shotgun and chatting up an almost Onibaba-esque scarecrow (that movie really did stay with me, eh?). It’s the kind of performance that makes Will Smith’s meet-cute mannequin scene of I Am Legend look Oscar worthy.

Minor Spoiler: Despite being blown up before the title, Baldwin maintains top billing in the credits, possibly to keep his devoted fans watching or more likely to make the rest of us frightened that his hamminess will return (this was in the horror section, after all). Thankfully, the film moves on to introduce a better/saner young cast as they make their way to renovate the late Baldwin’s abandoned home. Boring mini melodramas follow as Shyamalanian crop circles pop up in the surrounding cornfields. Sheriff Billy Zane (seemingly sleeping off a major hangover for most of filming) offers little help but lots of cool as tension builds in and around the house over a week and a half.

Yes, a week and a half. I know this because the movie insists on title cards that tell you the days of the week. This makes sense for a movie like The Shining, where the progression of time is key, but in Silent Warnings, showing us that it’s Wednesday just serves as a reminder that nothing happened on Tuesday and Lost is on tonight.

The young actors work hard, and while their characters are fairly forgettable, the effort is admirable. There’s the mysterious girl who has never seen a cow (but is not an alien), the black guy who makes wise cracks, the jock to add aggression, his psychic girlfriend to get naked, and a blonde suffering from a severely elongated torso that renders every one of her tops to stop about four inches above her waist (or maybe the budget didn't allow for adult sized clothing; it’s unclear). A.J. Buckley has a nice presence as Layne, the thoughtful group leader and cousin to the late Baldwin's wacked out farmer. There's far too much downtime, but I'll give director Christian McIntire credit for creating non-obnoxious young characters who don't make me want to invite Jason Voorhees over for a stereotype scavenger hunt.

Eventually, the monsters are revealed and much like the 2002 twisty extraterrestrial thriller it blatantly rips off, Silent Warnings comes to a rubber burning halt. I enjoyed Signs for its steady build of eerie tension, but all of my uneasiness was laughed away at the full-frame shot of the video game refugee with big eyes. Silent Warnings magnifies the mistake with villainous aliens so fake you can count the pixels. It’s a shame, too. Once Baldwin is gone and the Zane wakes up, you actually start to care about the cast for the final attack to have some depth.

High Points
An excellent soundtrack creates some major intensity, particularly towards the climax

Any project that keeps Stephen Baldwin busy means less television appearances and Jesus rants for the rest of us

The image of Billy Zane facing evil intergalactic monsters makes me feel warm inside

Low Points
The actual aliens make the CGI attacks of Shark Attack 3: Megladon look positively Spielbergian

Providing no explanation of the invasion doesn’t necessarily hurt the film, but an attempt might have at least distanced Silent Warnings another inch away from Signs

Lessons Learned
Telling someone “you ain’t got no character” is a great way to make your friends laugh for five minutes

Just because a woman says you’re attractive does not give you permission to peep on her as she undresses next door

The Flanders were right: iron is good for you

Letter jackets worn by 30+ year old actors playing young twentysomethings makes said actors look far older

Winning Line
“I love you. I love your body. That’s the truth.”
This is said to a beautiful young topless woman who is insecure around her athletic boyfriend because she’s not, like, a cheerleader or like, the cheerleader type. Firstly, are cheerleaders still considered the hot holy grails of male college loins? And more importantly, is “not a cheerleader type” code for brunette?

This is above average Sci-Fi Channel fodder that is far better than it really has any right to be. That being said, one watch is most likely more than enough for most genre fans. Unless you’re sorely missing the once ubiquitous film presence of Master Zane and worry that he didn’t sign the right line for Titanic residuals, stick Silent Warnings somewhere on your Netflix queue or wait for a random cable airing and turn off the lights.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Mother-In-Law Is a Demon. But How Are You?

One of the things I love about post-apocalyptic fiction is how human beings are so quickly turned into ravenous scavengers. Without the comfort of modern society, the consensus seems to be that our daily lives will consist of finding what’s edible and tearing it apart with our bare hands. Sleep. Hunt. Repeat. Not nearly as much fun as it sounds.

Set in feudal Japan during a chaotic (offscreen) civil war, Onibaba tells the hellish story of two desperate women with fierce survival instincts and incredibly primal appetites. Left alone in the grassy countryside, the only way to eat is to slaughter renegade samurai and trade their military garb for meager rations from the general store (or hut). Life is bare existence, as the pair--an old woman and her dutiful daughter-in-law--toil through the days, shoveling rice into their mouths, sleeping nude amongst the sweltering heat and aggressive drum beats, and filling deep Freudian holes with warrior corpses. The closest they come to joy is the rabid and successful hunt of a meaty puppy.

Enter Hachi, a surviving veteran of sorts (he went AWOL in a war no one seems to be keeping track of by dressing like a priest) who promptly (well, after a free meal) informs his hostesses that the man they share is dead. There’s little time for mourning as Hachi lusts after the widow, the widow coordinates nighttime trysts with Hachi, and the mother plots to keep her only companion. The highlight for most viewers comes in the third act, when a wandering samurai meets the increasingly embittered mother-in-law. Their odd little walkabout is intriguing in itself, but what follows is a wonderfully wicked ending ripped out of a Buddhist morality tale.

Like The Virgin Spring, Onibaba features a medieval setting, internal religious conflict, and a female deeply enslaved to her animal nature. Where Bergman's film explored the weakness of Christianity in the face of primal rage, Shindo Kaneto's story seems less concerned with religious karma and more intent on bringing our basic human needs and desires onto the screen. Our nameless (anti)heroines are the creatures of myth, but one of the brilliant aspects of Onibaba is just how believable their hunger is. With their lives boiled down to survival, what more can they want but a full meal and a gratifying roll in the tall grass?

High Points
A soundtrack filled with frantic drums and the occasional scream is extraordinary in establishing a world without order

Some genuine humor, particularly from the magnetic Kei Sato as Hachi

Low Points
I won’t go into spoilers, but one of our characters has a more definite conclusion than the others, and it’s so sudden that its significance feels lost

Lessons Learned
Never put something on your face when you don’t know where it’s been

Just in case you had any doubts, living with your mother-in-law is not a good idea

Sex in a bad economy is worth one bag of millet

Any DVD issued by the Criterion Collection is automatically worth the splurge (based both on quality of film and loaded features), and Onibaba is no different. The visual design is both horrifying and haunting, the score is uniquely violent, and the performances create memorable--if not overly likable-- characters that fill their archetypal roles while maintaining genuine charisma. This is a classic that earns its ranking.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I get lost in your eyes...

While I recover from the Oscars (it's a three day process, especially when said ceremony features Hugh Jackman performing an interpretive dance about The Reader) I thought I'd present a niblet of food for thought. Is it just me, or was England's most lovable claymation canine inspired by the Japanese demon mask worn by the samurai in Onibaba?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I'm a Slave (of the Cannibal God) For You

Critics today can bitch and moan about the blight of torture porn, but there was a far more nihilistic, misogynist, racist, and generally darker (though physically better lit) period of exploitation cinema in the late 70s-early 80s, courtesy of those wacky Italians. Cannibal cinema--a huge hit for a brief but fertile few years--followed its own grisly recipe: take one exotic jungle locale that made Lost’s lost island look like a Disney resort, add several non-Caucasian actors relegated to the roles of savages, stir in a pinch of rape and/or castration (as obligatory as the “I can’t get any bars on my cell phone” line of current horror), bake in the sweltering sun for 80 minutes and serve with exotic wildlife creatures on the craft service table.

Watching lesser cannibal cinema makes me feel rather dirty and unfulfilled, in much the same way that the ‘unrated’ Captivity reminded me of what it’s like to eat at a cheap buffet restaurant; I dutifully fill my plate repeatedly for the duration of my stay, but everything tastes the same and nothing comes close to being good. Both subgenres work so hard to show you scenes no human has any need to witness, with such little finesse that any shock value is muted. Sort of like the Seinfeld (Marble Rye lady has been haunting me) episode where Jerry’s nudist girlfriend seems like a dream come true until he catches sight of her struggling to open a jar of pickles. Imagery--whether artistic, horrific, or both--can only go so far without context. It’s one thing to show a thrilling chase and reward the hunter with meal of his prey; it’s another to simply insert footage of an alligator eating a monkey.

Sergio Martino's Mountain of the Cannibal God, as my heavily edited version is titled (Slave of the Cannibal God is the more common name), is not quality cannibalia, despite having a decent budget and a semi-famous cast who seem to be enjoying the film as much as I was.

Quick Plot: Ursula Andress plays the concerned wife of a missing anthropologist, who disappeared into the jungles of New Guinea. She and her shifty brother enlist the aid of a khaki shorts-wearing Stacy Keach (along with several dispensable natives whose fates seem far less valued by everyone in and behind the film) who has his own reasons for hiking through the perilous rain forest. An Italian adventurer of sorts joins the fun to make googly eyes at Andress and save her life lots, while a cannibal tribe slowly sends scouts to reel those sun-tanning imperialists in for a dinner invitation.

There’s nothing wrong with this premise, yet I found myself so overwhelmingly underwhelmed by everything about this film. It looks gorgeous and the action-adventure aspect is played decently, but in watching the characters stumble through a terribly intrusive score, I got the feeling that nobody had any desire to be a part of this. The white actors look on in mild fear as stock footage is awkwardly inserted. Several animals are torn apart for our (dis)pleasure. Sometimes a plot point happens and characters kind of react. More often, it doesn't and they don't. But the music keeps playing. Then it stops. Then it plays again. And so on.

High Points:
Well-done scene of a boa constrictor wrapping itself around Andress is neat, but since it feels like the 7th ‘animal-attacking-woman-saved-by-white-men’ scene in the film, the scare isn’t what it should be

One of our main characters has an unexpected fate that actually surprises

Low Points:
Gratuitous animal violence feels even more carelessly tacked on than all the topless shots of the recent Friday the 13th

Andress’s one facial expression of blank worry=her performance

An alligator attack is 96% facial reactions, 3% alligator, and 1% "I’m bored and will now play Boggle"

Lessons Learned:
Cannibals are jerks, but little people cannibals are just plain dicks

The jungles of New Guinea are rich in uranium

Being a cannibal goddess gets you the same costume designer as Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls

Native girls are easy

Winning Line:
“You showed them fornication!”
It’s not that I condone the evil Swiss brother’s fatal seduction of an island lass, but isn’t a little fornication necessary for, you know, ensuring the continuation of your small and endangered tribe?

Repeat Offender:
Perhaps it’s the jungle air, but skinny and helpless Andress has the same punching power (and sound effect) as every male twice her size

If you want to see a beautifully shot, well-written film that uses extreme violence to tell a story and explore complex themes about the dark nature of a copy of Cannibal Holocaust. While I don’t condone the animal cruelty--in fact, I abhor it and take mild comfort and knowing direcot Ruggero Deodato has since admitted wrongdoing--those scenes are at least prompted by characters’ decisions. In Mountain of the Cannibal God (bury), I imagine this as a sample and standard conversation during shooting:

Martino: Ursula, stand right hear so we can see Johnny gut the lizard.

Andress: Why?

Martino: Don’t ask stupid questions. Action!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Keep Those Fingers Out of That Mouth of Madness

John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness has somehow eluded both my VCR and DVD player for 14 years. I missed it in the theaters, possibly because my teenage friends were so battle scarred from being dragged to Species that they boycotted seeing horror movies with me throughout the seventh grade (plus my bringing Mothers Day to a slumber party, which seemed like a good idea at the time). Perhaps I felt that if I could only own film from 1995, it would have to be the special edition of Se7en (because I love few things more than replaying and re-acting "What's in the box???" in my perfect Brad Pitt impression) and if I could have two, I couldn’t NOT choose the Oscar snubbed Clint Howard in The Ice Cream Man. Third choice? What a no brainer: Showgirls (believe me, in the words of Nomi Malone, “It doesn’t suck!”). Hm. 1995 was apparently a far better year for cinema than anyone realized.

Back to the decent, if pastie-less horror of Carpenter, made just before what became a semi-tragic descent into Sci-Fi channel quality. In the Mouth of Madness stars Sam Neill as John Trent, an insurance investigator who proves that movie characters named Trent are always arrogant jerks. The head of a publishing company played by an unarmed Charlton Heston hires the dapper Aussie to investigate the mysterious disappearance of superstar horror novelist Sutter Cane, a man more celebrated than Stephen King and more disturbed than Jack Ketchum. In addition to vanishing before a deadline (a nice trick all writers have considered/tried), Cane is under a bit of hellfire for writing books that, when read by ‘less stable’ minds, are known to cause a mild case of axe-wielding homicide.

The search begins. Trent and Cane’s sassily named editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen) take a road trip to Hobbs End, the kind of two worded New England town--always a sign of evil--where real estate is probably deceptively well-priced. While there, our leads visit a Russian cathedral, escape an angry gang of champion bred Dobermans, and meet a creepy but resilient bicyclist that looks oddly like John Carpenter himself (but without the signature cigarette) on the same road once driven on by Pee-Wee Herman and Large Marge. As Trent and Styles bicker over whether the eerie hamlet is a haunted piece of fiction come to life or a grand publicity stunt on a Joaquim-as-Rap-Star scale, the strangeness increases and Carpenter’s makeup department gets busy.

In the Mouth of Madness is a hard film to classify, which makes it slightly great and more than a little messy. Sure, Carpenter flexes his latex to fit squishy monsters, but the most interesting aspect is a story that raises some rather deep questions about the nature of faith. Can something or someone become God if enough people people believe in it? How much control do we give the men and women who create what we covet? Does anyone know Oprah’s favorite color?

 Unfortunately, there isn’t quite enough substance behind Carpenter’s execution to make any of the themes stick strongly enough. Most viewers will probably remember the film for Styles’ post-Excorcist, pre-Unborn spider walk instead.

High Points:
Hobbs End’s demonic children are sufficiently creepy and should have been rehired for Carpenter’s Village of the Damned over those terribly bland wig wearing tots

Yes, that’s Seinfeld’s Marble Rye victim and no, you do not want to mess with her

The relationship between Neill and Carmen doesn’t take the typical direction you’d expect, which is refreshing

Low Points:
As much as I want to use any opportunity possible to champion old school and insult CGI, the climactic demons guarding hell feel a tad too much like bottom shelf leftovers from The Thing.

It takes a little too long to actually develop audience concern for Neill’s off-putting Trent

Lessons Learned:
The best way to prove you’re sane in a mental institution is probably not to shout “I’m not insane” while headbutting the orderlies

A screwdriver is just as convenient as a backup set of car keys

Insurance investigators keep bike horns in glove compartments and are generally more annoying road companions than a family that insists on finishing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Repeat Offender:
Like many a film, every character seems to punch with the same exact force (or at least the same sound effect button)

Winning Line:
Trent: I’m not a piece of fiction.
Cane: I think, therefore you are.

Stray Observations:
The door to hell was made by the same art department that did Labyrinth’s glittery ivy clad walls

Anybody else waiting for the Mormon funded remake centering around a thinly veiled Stephanie Meyer and axe happy 15 year olds? If so, are you as frightened as I am?

Buy at a discount. Intellectually, this is one of Carpenter’s more ambitious films that I believe will grow on repeat viewings. The lines between reality and hell are skewed in a fairly unique style and the finale is simultaneously thoughtful and manic. While it’s not the mind-blowing fearfest some fans claim, this is a unique and dense ride that’s sadly becoming harder and harder to come by in modern theaters.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Friday the 13th, the Twelfth

The Best Drinking Game For Staying Sober:

Directions: Buy a bootleg DVD of Platinum Dunes latest foray into raping your childhood and impregnating it with false memories that alter past films into pieces of art. Next, crack open the first type of beer you ever drank while watching a decent horror film. What, it’s only 9 in the morning, you say? Don’t worry. This is one game that will keep you singing the alphabet backwards with only a few mistakes. In other words, you will probably pass a sobriety test with flying colors.

Turn movie on. Ready? Here comes the hard part:

Take a sip whenever...

The lighting is bright enough to show you anything at night

You can see Jason in full view for longer than two seconds of screen time

A female blonde is fully clothed

You say to yourself, “this will be awesome!” (i.e., because there’s a rusty and ready wood chipper an inch from a character’s head) and it actually is

A character you like dies

A character you like lives

A character you like exists onscreen

There is the slightest acknowledgement that the setting is a summer camp

Anything about Jason’s sudden urge to kill after 29 years of laying low, installing flood lights, and practicing archery is explained

I don’t know about you, but I’m incredibly thirsty.

As I’ve said before, I wasn’t expecting a franchise that has previously churned out imitation I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter quality installments to be brilliant, but how hard was it to construct a mildly interesting, perhaps even slightly scary film? Too hard, okay. How about a cheeky horror romp that pays some form of homage to the eleven films that came before? No? Here’s an idea: just give me one death scene that I’ll remember two hours later. Fine. I’ll make it easy: release a remake of higher quality than the disgrace that was 2006’s The Hitcher. Seriously, EVEN THAT wasn’t possible?

Did I just say what I think I said? Did I call The Hitcher 2006 a better movie than something else made by human beings? With hands? And presumably at least a few brain cells? Remind me to pack an extra sweater on my way to hell.

I wouldn’t be so offended by the mediocrity of F13.12 if it hadn’t made $42 million and counting this weekend. Yay, horror fans actually paid for something! Well I hope we enjoyed it because we can probably now expect another 11 sequels over the next decade. Hey, there are two more 13ths in 2009 that land on Friday, so perhaps Michael Bay will go kidnap a few more CW refugees to get the right timing. It’s not like he needs to wait for a script or anything. Say what you will about the Saw series: I’ll take Tobin Bell’s hoarse whisper and the writers’ mild dedication towards providing plot and character intricacies over badly lit death scenes of obnoxiously bland catalogue models any day.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go have a drink and formulate a plan to destroy Platinum Dunes before Jared Padalecki signs on to play Freddy Krueger and the script is rewritten so he doesn’t hunt in dreams, but just starts hanging out in the dressing room of Victoria’s Secret until his bloodless defeat by Paul Blart, Mall Cop. Crap. Did I just give Michael Bay a bad yet inexplicably lucrative pitch?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

This has gone well beyond the boundaries of prudence and good taste!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d make an announcement:

I’m in love.

It’s sudden, I know. Foolish, perhaps? But ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the current fire in my lady loins:

Jack Hill's Spider Baby or The Maddest Story Ever Told (1968)

How is it possible that I survived 27 years without seeing this movie?

Somewhere in the boonies of California, the immensely huggable Lon Chaney Jr. plays Bruno, the sad faced, deep voiced caretaker to the, um, unusual Merrye children: Elizabeth, a short and sassy tattletale, the homicidal arachnoholic Virginia, and Ralphie, the canine man-child played by a young, skinny, and gloriously bald Sid Haig.

Life is merry in the gothic Merrye mansion; spiders are fed (and occasionally eaten), kittens are caught, and everyone has fun fooling around the dumbwaiter. Much like the colder, bloodier (and usually less funny) descendants of hillbilly horror, Spider Baby’s plot gets rolling with the intrusion of city folk to remind us that the Merryes are different. Isolation isn’t the problem; genetics is. Apparently the family is cursed with a disease that leads all the children who have reached the age of ten to slowly (or quickly, if they follow the Atkins diet) descend into a state of “pre-human savagery and cannibalism.” If Benjamin Button is anything like this, I’m changing my bet and saying it’s guaranteed the Best Picture win.

The invading urbanites include a Hitleresque lawyer named Schlocker and the uptight distant Merrye cousin Emily (you know she’s in for it because she has a tight bun and faux British accent), plus two nicer bland pretty people, all of whom are seeking a large inheritance from their savage kin. The children don’t take very kindly towards strangers (well, except Ralphie, who’s got a hard--I mean soft spot for the ladies). The inevitable dinner party and sleepover follow, gleefully complete with creeping tarantulas, incestuous seduction, Ms. Pacman style bows, Wolfman references, and, needless to say, loads of full-flavored fun.

High Points
The opening theme song makes me want to dip Chaney’s vocal cords in dark chocolate and eat them slowly. Not in a cannibalistic way or anything.

In his formalwear, Ralphie resembles Monty Burns whenever we see the tycoon as a child clad in knickers and Yankee Doodle Dandy hats

Elizabeth and Virginia, despite little physical resemblance between the actresses, are wonderfully believable as young sisters

Low Points
Drunk driving never looked so easy

Lessons Learned
Twine is really strong if tied correctly

Hearing “Aunt Emily!” shouted by knife wielding nieces makes me thankful that my little ladies refer to me exclusively as Auntie Em.

Uptight rich city blondes pack sexy lingerie when staying at long-lost relatives’ homes

Stray Observation
Anne, the Marilyn Munster of the party, is quite the lush (note the final scene)

Winning Line:
Elizabeth: Spiders don't eat other spiders.
Virginia: Cannibal spiders do.
I chose this one mainly because it reminds me of the sea monkeys I grew in college. When I ran out of their powdery nourishment, I tossed in a few bits of dry cat food. Within a day, the little tank was clouded and the sea monkeys were no more. A friend pointed out the error of my way: cat food is made of fish. Hence, I had unknowingly transformed my baby brine into cannibals. I’ve since developed two theories regarding the cause of this massacre: 1) they developed a taste for fish flesh and ended up eating each other to death or 2) upon devouring their ancestors, my little swimmers committed mass suicide out of shame and horror.

Buy and cuddle with. This is horror comedy the way it should be done. Unique and pitch-perfect performances around the board, disturbing images that tickle like a spider’s spindly legs, and cheerfully self-aware dialogue to make you giggle. If this film doesn’t make you smile, your heat is made of stone that needs to be ground and served on a platter with rabbit and fungus. Nothing personal. It just is.

Right girls?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Repo! The Aggressive Opera!

As a firm believer in organ donation, a lifetime lover of musicals, a proud owner of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Seasons 2-7 (because I refused to pay the same price for the shortest season, even if i did get all the others at a bargain price of $16.99), and, in case you haven't guessed it, a fairly enthusiastic fan of horror, the concept of Repo! was almost too good to be true:

Quick Plot: In the near dystopian future, the demand for fresh body parts has grown so large that a corporation has started a megamillion financing company to pay for those transplants with very steep interest rates. Paul Sorvino and Sarah Brightman lend operatic cred, Anthony Stewart Head provides the eye and soulful voice candy, and the director of Saw 2 tosses in all the leftover bits from Tobin Bell’s autopsy. The casting of Paris Hilton was almost a relief; nothing could be perfect.

And Repo! isn't. But I still love it.

Maybe you will. Maybe you won't. This could be the dictionary definition of a polarizing film because there's no way to enjoy it if you can't get past its rock opera-iness. Or the ridiculous plot, brain squishing, grave robbing, Spy Kids alum, and Bill Mosely’s dance moves. Anybody that says they hated this film, I can't argue. It's loud and crass, messy and cheap, over-the-top and proud of itself. But c’mon: there’s an exclamation point in the title with no real logic (Repo! The Genetic Opera makes me want to rename some past titles like Pinball! The Who’s Tommy, Barber! Sweeney Todd’s Victorian Tale and fix Broadway’s Spring Awakening to Fuck! The Teen Sex Musical). I normally don’t approve of aggressive grammar, but this one just tries so hard and hey, maybe it’s an homage to past musicals of yore like Oklahoma! and Oliver!

High Points:
Sarah Brightman has always been a kind of dark-haired step-child of the theater world, but she is right at home in the world of this film, with an incredibly haunting voice and gorgeous look.

Picture the Nixon mask Patrick Swayze wore in the opening scene of Point Break. Now cut out the mouth and listen to it sing with a wacky and foppish Italian accent. That’s Ogre’s Gabi, and it’s kind of a beautiful and horrifying thing.

Seeing Anthony Stewart Head singing and in black leather is sort of like fan fiction wish fulfillment pornography for the Buffyverse...and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that

Low points
Of all the musical lines this film, the single one I can’t get out of my head is Bill Mosely's “I will find a hole and fuck it.” That’s a tad inconvenient in real life.

Lessons Learned:
The near future will kind of suck, but at least opera will make a comeback

Much like today, the lending crisis will yield some rather serious consequences for the general public, with dismemberment and gutting replacing foreclosure and bankruptcy.

It is possible for goth guys to be kinda hot, providing they have rich singing voices

Buy it, if nothing else, to send a message to studios that horror fans crave and will accept something different. As much as I'm giddily counting the days left to see Jason’s rebirth*, I would much rather get a Repo! cycle or surge in crossover genre experiments than another 12 films with the same story and stock characters for the next 12 years. If people complain that Saw is the same recycled garbage Halloween after Halloween then those folks need to prove that they want and will pay for something else.

*Generally, my opinion on remakes is one of disdain and annoyance, but the Friday the 13th series has never actually been good (despite the softest of spots I hold in my heart for Part 8, where Jason takes over a Canadian New York City) so as far as “reimagining” goes, I say go for it. It can’t be worse than Part 5, and maybe 12 times is the charm.