Starless Imperium

Morgan Argor Strange, Science Fiction Horror Author

The Director’s Cut of “Repo! The Genetic Opera” Messed With My Head (Major Spoilers, and Yes, the Graverobber Did Inherit GeneCo.)

“Sometimes I wonder why we all don’t move on.”

Because of my neuroses, I tend to hyperfixate on certain movies, bands, or videogames for a while. They inevitably all fade to background noise, but for a while it’s all I talk about. That’s why I’ve watched “Repo! The Genetic Opera” at least 5 times in the past week.

I’ve described this weird, gorey musical (in the vein of Sweeney Todd or The Rocky Horror Picture show) as “a legendary premise with questionable execution”. When I watched the regular version, I always loved the story, but it was one of those things where some parts are just so bad you have to laugh.

Then I watched the director’s cut. Or some long-lost version that was meant to be deleted? I’m still not sure. But anyways:

All the “missing pieces” of this new, sleazier, way longer version made me realize that the whole thing was actually fucking genius. It wasn’t executed poorly: It was EDITED poorly when they made the cut to make it shorter.

The scenes they took out should NOT have been taken out. If you don’t believe me, get about 5 minutes into the movie where you see Rotti Largo actually get a diagnosis. (In the original version, it’s kind of unclear WHY the trio is fighting over GeneCo. If I remember right, they never explicitly state that Rotti is sick – They leave you wondering if there’s something wrong with him, or if he’s just old, or . . .?)

But then you get to the scene where the Repo Man laments his dead wife. But don’t worry, he doesn’t lament her too hard: Because her mummified body is preserved in the wall behind glass.

The moment I first saw this, I was like “What the actual fucking hell?” It totally changed his character for me from that moment on.

See, in the uncut/original/whatever version, they portray him as this irritable dude that’s just kind of sick of killing people for GeneCo. But in this version, you see very early on that something about him just . . . isn’t right.

Later on it becomes even clearer when the Repo scenes are more like torture scenes. But somehow, the (maybe not so subtle?) difference of showing his unhinged tendency to preserve corpses just kind of changed the vibe for me. He used to be my favorite character, but I’m a little bit unsure if the job is REALLY that thankless if you’re having that much fun tearing people to pieces.

In other words, they seemingly edited out the parts that make him seem crazy/sadistic and played up the “sad depressive dad who’s tired of it all” trope.

But in the uncut version, you see him for what he really is: A literal psychopath who took a gamble with his wife’s life, lost, and then made the same mistakes again by imprisoning and poisoning his daughter. You no longer have sympathy for him when GeneCo forces his hand to keep on repo-ing, because you see that A) he got himself into this mess and B) he enjoys it.

So, as the movie went on, I found myself thinking “I’m not sure Repo Man is my favorite character anymore. At least we still have Graverobber.”

Or do we?

In the original, they portray him as this quirky dude that’s in a rough spot. He lives in a fucked up world run by megacorps, so makes a living mucking through the gutters literally and figuratively. So he’s a graverobber. Okay, not ideal, but desperate times call for desperate measures. He’s still cute and smiles a lot and has Shiloh’s best interest in mind, right?

It doesn’t look like it when you really . . . uh . . . slice it all up and look at the big picture.

But before we do that, I want to lay a few things out on the table, and even ask a few questions.

If you can’t tell from the title, I believe that in the end, the Graverobber is the one who truly inherited GeneCo. Essentially that’s the point of the entire movie.

But who really IS the Graverobber? All we really know about him is that he seems to run the underworld, at least in this part of town. He seems to have a pretty good gig, and he never calls it a thankless job like the Repo Man: So why would he even want to inherit GeneCo? Seemingly, he hates the megacorps, and even goes as far as blaming them for all the problems in the world. He clearly sees the world for what it is–that much is apparent from the opening comic. He expresses disdain for GeneCo’s practices, and helps potential victims throw off the repo men. Great guy, right?

I mean, the movie STARTS with him helping Shiloh.

“But what if you could achieve genetic perfection? Would you change your life if you could?”

Ha. Hahahah. He isn’t helping her. He’s grooming her. We’ll explore that later on when I ramble about the deleted scenes.

So when you cut certain parts out later, it seems like he’s just lamenting his own fate and explaining why he harvests Zydrate with that song. “It’s quick, it’s clean, and it’s pure. It’ll change your life, rest assured.”

Hopefully you’ve been fortunate enough to never have anyone say something like that to you. But if not, you know exactly what he’s doing.

He’s trying to create a future customer. And not one that pays in cash.

Drug market, sub-market,
Sometimes I wonder why I ever got in.
Blood market, love market,
Sometimes I wonder why they need me at all.

So we get a taste of this little gem of a scene in the regular version. But when Amber (Paris Hilton) comes into the picture and starts throwing herself at the Graverobber, who reacts with detached annoyance, you start to see what’s really going on.

Is Amber paying him in cash? Doesn’t seem like it. You know why? Because the Graverobber is the smartest character in the movie. Really, he’s the only one who never fucked himself over and kept it cool.

He knows that money is nothing to Amber Sweet, the daughter of the guy who literally runs the world. Amber has access to all the best surgeons. Hell, before Rotti goes into his little soliloquy about how gold makes the world go round (which is fucking precious and amazing and never should have been cut), he even tells Amber that one of his surgeons can have her fixed up in a couple of hours after she stumbles back in after her little rendezvous with the Graverobber.

But she doesn’t want her surgery from her father. And she’s not addicted to surgery or the knife, regardless of what the newspapers say. She’s addicted to Zydrate. Street Zydrate, specifically–and we all know who has the best in the business.

Amber is actually my third favorite character and is much more complex than she seems. I think Paris Hilton did a really good job portraying her. She comes across to casual watchers as someone who’s just obsessed with vanity, but that’s actually her brother Pavi.

Now look at Pavi’s surgery results compared to Amber’s. Geneco’s surgeons aren’t that good. Hell, after the little “fix up” so she isn’t botched anymore, her face is literally falling off as she sings.

The street surgeons are better. That’s why she goes to the Graverobber.

Better surgeons, better Zydrate.

Amber isn’t addicted to street surgery. She’s addicted to street Zydrate and will do anything for it. The Graverobber could just sell it to her, but from the “redroom” scene its pretty clear that he’s not interested in doing that. He’s smart enough to know that someone with a true addiction like Amber will do fucking anything for another vial, and he’s also smart enough to know that he’s cute, so she’ll probably fall in love in the process.

But he doesn’t care about her. If he did, he would just fuck her and give her the Zydrate and not stand by as she gets yet another street surgery and ruins her life. It’s the black market: His black market. There are no rules.

But that scene where Amber is having surgery and the Graverobber stands over her, expressionless but curious, and watches as they cut into her like a pig . . .

That right there shows you everything you need to know about him. He’s smart. That’s why he inherited all the world.

But he’s also sloppy. You can see that for a split second when he starts trying the same shit with Shiloh, who is only a naive kid with no life experinece. After the Amber scene, while they’re still in the market, he starts stroking Shiloh’s arm in the same creepy way.

Graverobber being sleazy with Shiloh.

I’m not exactly sure what the writers intended, but I know a thing or two about writing and reverse engineering. And if I wrote that, I’d say he’s still thinking about grooming her.

Ha, he redeems himself in the end. If you listen to the song in the credits, Shiloh finds him again and he’s fucking around trying to extract more Zydrate. He starts telling her to “just smack it” as in “Just shoot it up, it’s faster” but he seems to almost . . . lose himself, or second guess it, and changes his tune. Perhaps he remembers all the other people he enslaved the same way. “Just smack it, you’ll get hooked faster.”

But he’s talking about the extraction tools. He’s teaching Shiloh to be the new Graverobber.

And it makes sense, because someone else needs to inherit his throne. The last lines in both cuts are double-speak. He pretends that GeneCo’s throne is “ripe for the taking,” but he already has Amber in his pocket. Forever, through love and Zydrate.

He looks you dead in the eyes and smirks, speculating with you, the watcher, about who will rule all the world . . .

Then, Amber sneaks by, in the shadows as usual. You see a flash of her face right before it’s all confirmed.

Amber still goes to him for Zydrate even though she’s about to (at face value) inherit all the world. Her song from the flesh market scene hit me at that moment.

“Graverobber, graverobber,
Sometimes I wonder why I even bother.
Graverobber, graverobber,
Sometimes I wonder why I need you at all!”

She needed him then, and apparently, she needed him forever.

She’s introduced to the world as the new FACE of GeneCo. It’s not even transparent. As long as she’s addicted to Zydrate (and stupidly in love with a conman who ultimately has done nothing for anyone except his own chaotic agenda) she will remain a puppet.

Who the fuck do you think is really pulling the strings?

Graverobber from Repo the genetic opera runs GeneCo.

Unanswered questions about the Graverobber that will always bother me:

  1. Is the Graverobber a repo victim that couldn’t pay up and just said fuck it one day and had enough? Does he even have any GeneCo organs in his body at all?
  2. Why is he the only one that talks about the plague and the true reason behind the mass organ leasing problem? He clearly thinks something is fishy about it, but doesn’t elaborate farther. But he sure likes playing around with corpses and biohazards . . .
  3. . . . In fact, since he trained Shiloh to be his apprentice in the end, for all we know he’s the only one in the city who knows how to extract Zydrate himself. How does he know this? Did someone teach him like he taught Shiloh, or did he simply spend a lot of time amongst the dead?
  4. Speaking of that, why is he the only one who doesn’t wear protective gear when he fucks around with the sick dead bodies? The GeneCo people are always in full suits when they set foot in a graveyard. Is he immune to the sickness?
  5. Or did he die and come back, and develop immunity?
  6. Why does he get that weird, almost disturbed look in his eyes when he talks about genetic perfection and changing one’s life? Did he attempt to do this at one point, but it went wrong?
  7. Most importantly: Does the Graverobber himself even USE Zydrate, or does he simply move it? Is he smart enough not to tap into his own supply? Or is he an addict himself, caught up in the cycle, blowing through his own supply and trading the rest for flesh?

Or maybe it was never about Zydrate or sex at all, and he was just an ambitious and conniving nobody who ended up playing everyone he ever knew like a harp and ruling all reality . . .

So to sum it all up, when you unravel it all, the Graverobber is actually a scumbag trap king who would fuck over anyone and everyone, and kind of has. But he really kind of won me over in this new version with the gritty complexity of his character. At least he sees reality for what it is, instead of spiraling into bleak, hopeless insanity like the Repo Man.

But I’m good on the Zydrate. Last thing I want is to feel nothing at all.

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