Review: "Repo: The Genetic Opera" at the Coolidge

Repo: The Genetic Opera screens April 18 at the Coolidge

Two weekends ago, I went to the Coolidge to see the midnight screening of Repo: The Genetic Opera, the 2008 rock musical set in a decadent, surgery-obsessed dystopia. I should have known something was amiss right away when, before the movie started, a dude dressed in what appeared to be a conductor’s outfit stood up and commenced screaming film quotes until the audience gave him a satisfactory callback response. Then again, based on what I knew of Repo’s growing cult following, I’d come expecting theatrics and audience participation.

What I got instead was more akin to a performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show run through a garbage disposal. A few rotten apples kept randomly shrieking Internet buzzwords (among them “pedobear” and “om nom nom”), making creepy jokes about molesting the film’s teen protagonist, and protesting wildly when asked to shut up.

I left the theater both shell-shocked and fascinated. Had I just seen a new Rocky Horror phenomenon take its first shaky steps? Or would it be another Shock Treatment (the obscure and largely failed 1981 Rocky Horror sequel), doomed to crib death?

Repo is in many ways ripe for fan worship. It’s got an über-catchy industrial-rock-meets-Phantom-of-the-Opera soundtrack, a cosplay-ready retro-futuristic aesthetic, and diverse appearances from Buffy’s Anthony Head, Skinny Puppy’s Nivek Ogre, Phantom star Sarah Brightman, and Paris Hilton in a surprisingly awesome turn as a spoiled heiress with an abysmal musical career and an addiction to both plastic surgery and a painkiller called Zydrate. I’m not one of Repo’s hardcore devotees, but I can’t help rooting for it.

So I went back to the Coolidge last weekend, and I’m pleased to report that the April 4 screening was heaps better. This time around, I watched a gaggle of girls — some in remarkably spot-on costumes — waving blue glowsticks (to mimic luminescent vials of Zydrate), singing along, and occasionally popping off a really good wisecrack (e.g., “I don’t know; ask Buffy!” in response to Anthony Head’s line “What chance has a 17-year-old girl?”).

If this is any indication of how the film’s following will evolve, there might still be hope for Repo to accede to the midnight-movie throne.

Check it out for yourself this weekend at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St, Brookline | April 18 @ 11:55 pm | $10 | 617.734.2500 or This is the last scheduled screening at the Coolidge, but word is that they’ll consider extending its midnight run if interest is strong enough.

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