Hackles raised? Good. Let’s get this off the ground by quoting from director/writer of the original film “Donnie Darko” Richard Kelly
who said of this direct-to-DVD sequel, “To set the record straight, here's a few facts I'd like to share with you all -- I haven't read this script. I have absolutely no involvement with this production, nor will I ever be involved. I have no control over the rights from our original film, and neither I, nor my producing partner Sean McKittrick stand to make any money from this film.”
Now, while I concur that the fandom for the original film had become so intense and so speculative in regards to it’s many fascinating mysteries (and possible interpretations) that a sequel wasn’t necessary undoable. I myself, a fervent fan of the movie, had drawn up in my head ideas for a sequel featuring James Duval
’s character, Frank
, and how he appeared to be having dreams himself about the rabbit AFTER the death of Donnie
, which says to me that story isn’t done being told. Rumors of a Roberta Sparrow
prequel might have yielded something different yet expansive in the mythos as well.
And yet, for reasons completely beyond my capacity to understand, contracted writer Nathan Atkins
set the film around Donnie
’s little sister from the original film, Sam
, played in both movies by Daveigh Chase
. Maybe it’s not fair to blame the writer for that decision since I think it was one based more on availability and the guiding question of ‘how can we make a cheap buck’
by the rights holders than anything else. I’ll just spread my blame across the board.
Right from the beginning, the project starts out on the wrong foot. Why would Sam
be tied into this universe at all? It doesn’t follow. But there she is, in what appears to be a nightgown throughout most of the film (so I'm not totally complaining) with her hot friend Corey
) on a road trip with an improbable destination. Their car breaks down in where-the-frak-evers-ville USA where the slightly odd yet predictably so townsfolk all react differently to their rebellious yet lethargic attitude. This is the generation who doesn’t want to protest so much as just sneer all the time, the same type of young folks who like to come on Spill
and declare a movie/show/book is absolutely awful for certain without having seen it (or sometimes even the slightest amount of actual exposure to it past the forum said snarky comment pops up in). You know who you are. You NEED to be spanked.
*pulls out shotgun* GET OFFA MY LAWN YOU WHELPS OR I’LL FILL YOUR STINKING PUNK HIDES FULL OF MY ROCKSALT!*
deal with this variety of folk, Sam
interested only in getting their car fixed and leaving this craphole and Corey
more about flirting with the local young bad boy element. A meteorite that hits a local windmill and stirs up some local craziness complicates the situation, not to mention that a demonic looking version of Sam
herself keeps appearing to a local crazy guy (James Lafferty
) who is a blatant attempt to cast a Jake Gyllenhaal
look-a-like. Things drastically worsen for the characters leading up to a death…but then, much like in the end of “Donnie Darko”
another character is led to understand that their choice to sacrifice themselves will set back time and save the other person, and maybe the universe? I wasn’t quite clear on that. However, this takes place at about the halfway point of the film and is the first of many reversals making you wonder why the universe doesn’t just come down and smack the crap outta all these rabbit-headed folks screwing with the timeline. Seriously, James T Kirk
has got NOTHING on the Darko
The biggest problem is that the strategy the filmmaker’s employed to appeal to fans of the original film was a very cut and paste one. While many of the themes, such as spiritual leaders with something to hide, intolerance and the cruelty of the young are reused here, they feel forced and inorganic to the story. Such is also true of the re-use of many of the cinematic tricks Kelly
used in the first film that are outright aggravating to see used here in such a blatantly cheap and misunderstood fashion. In many ways it’s a worst case scenario sequel made by folks who never really ‘got’
the original on a deeper level and only appreciated it on a surface level.
Now that I’m done ranting about all the things about “S Darko”
that made it seem like it was directed by the staff at a “Hot Topic”
store, I do have to give it some praise. Daveigh Chase
does her absolute best here and she’s lovely to watch now that she’s all grown up. I’ll bet she knows what ‘fuckass’
means now. Most of the cast do just fine although the pouty sullenness of Briana Evigan
and especially of town bad boy Randy
) are one-note performances and it gets old fast.
The best story ideas here are ones that don’t have anything to do with the Darko
universe before, such as the local nerd who is infected with…something…from a meteorite and a mystery surrounding missing children in the town but both stories go completely unresolved. Some of the imagery is creepy if not exactly original and even though there’s nothing that adds to the mythology in any way that any fan of the original would be likely to accept, there’s enough mildly tasty reminders of what we loved about the original to not be completely offensive. I’m choosing to think of it as a slightly better than most fan fic gone to the screen. That being said, keep in mind that most fan fic is TERRIBLE.
The Blu-Ray comes with a few extras:
Absolutely nothing of consequence
-Commentary with Filmmakers
-The Making of S. Darko:
If you felt like I did that the folks who made this never had much interest past a check, the featurette will likely compound that belief)
-Utah Too Much:
The best actor this film had to work with was John Hawkes
(probably best known as Sol Star
) and they did nothing with him. This is he and some of the other actors who wrote and recorded a song during the down time (of which I assume, due to his lack of presence in the film, was most of the time). It’s set to amateur behind-the-scenes shots and isn’t awful or anything but won’t give you any insight into the film.
The good news? “S Darko”
is mediocre enough that it won’t be inspiring anyone to take it as ‘canon’
in a Donnie Darko
universe. The bad news? The Blu-Ray says on it “S Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale”
which tells me the producers have no intention of ceasing to milk the original. I’d expect another half-assed ‘sequel’
, because as long as there are teenagers buying official “Donnie Darko”
Glow in the Dark Skeleton hoodies, there’s gonna be an audience who will watch these regardless of quality.
Click Here to Buy S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale [Blu-ray]