S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale – DVD Review

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In 2001 a low budget indie film received a limited theatrical release and was rescued from straight-to-DVD obscurity. It didnt take too long for that film to become an instant cult classic. That was Donnie Darko. Now, eight years later a completely unnecessary sequel is arriving, straight-to-DVD, and hopefully everyone will forget about it as soon as possible.

Wait, wait wait. Hold the phone. A sequel…to Donnie Darko? A sequel to the film wherein the protagonist of the film died at the end? Sorry if that ruined it for some of you but the film game out 8 years ago, get with the times.

Donnie Darko took place in 1988, now its 1995 and Samantha, Donnies younger sister, is still upset that a plane engine fell out of the sky and killed her brother. So she is traveling cross country from Virginia to California with her jerk of a friend Corry. Their car breaks down in a backwater town in Utah and thats when the crazy begins.

First we learn that there is a boy in town that has recently gone missing and the girls end up befriending his older brother, who is also kind of a jerk. Then a guy everyone calls Iraq Jack (cause he came back from the war all messed up) is saved from a falling meteor by Samanthas ghost. Theres a creepy religious guy in town and this nerdy kid who is studying the meteor starts getting creepy and weird. Samanthas ghost tells Iraq Jack to burn down the church, which he does, and Samantha manages to die not once, but twice, hence her ghost showing up to tell Iraq Jack what to do. And none of this really has anything to do with one another and its all really boring and pointless.

With Donnie, writer/director Richard Kelly created a very interesting universe about alternate realities and time travel with very strict parameters. You can read about it on Wikipedia if you want; I dont want to bore you with it here. With S. Darko these new filmmakers (Kelly had nothing to do with this film) basically just took all of the ideas from Donnie, scrambled them up and set them in a new town with new characters and managed to remove everything that was interesting about the original.

While Donnie was told from the point of view of the person who was supposed to die and how he went about fixing everything, this tale is told from the point of view of one who is effected by the person, Iraq Jack, not dying, which just doesnt work. There is a whole twenty minutes in the middle of the film after Samantha dies the first time where we follow the very unlikable character Corry. Losing your main character for twenty minutes is just bad storytelling – sorry, it is. Even in the making-of director Chris Fisher admits that he’s still not sure if this works or not. Chris, it doesn’t.

Then there are other similarities that this film bit off the first one like Jack burning down the church and Donnie burning down Patrick Swayzes house; although the burning down of the church does not reveal anything interesting. Plus there is the creepy religious guy who hits on Samantha that it totally supposed to be Swayzes character. Plus, the creepy bunny imagery keeps reappearing which doesn’t make any sense because the in the first film the bunny suit was the costume Frank was wearing when he died. Frank isn’t in the sequel, so why the creepy bunny imagery? Answer: No reason. Just because.

While its easy to tear apart a film based on its predecessor, S. Darko doesnt stand up on its own legs either. There are glaring plot wholes that are extremely aggravating, there are subplots, like the one about the missing boy, who also shows up a ghost by the way, that go unresolved and on top of all of that the acting is bad, the special effects are wretched and all-in-all its a very boring movie and a complete waste of your time.

While the film had the same budget, it isnt even an eighth as good. While the first film had Jake and Maggie Gyllenhall, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore and Patrick Swayze, this film has Daveigh Chase, the actress who played Samantha in the fist film. And sadly, thats about the nicest thing I can say about this film is that they didnt recast the character.

The film is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. The transfer is fine, but the film doesn’t look all that great, plus there really isn’t anything interesting to look at. It sounds fine.

Audio Commentary with director Chris Fisher, writer Nathan Atkins and Cinematographer Marvin Rush: There is an amusing moment in this commentary when Fisher talks about how people have made death threat videos towards him on YouTube over this film. Other than that this is a pretty boring commentary. You could make a drinking game out of his use of the word “homage”.

Making Of S. Darko: (15 min.) As if the film itself wasn’t aggravating enough, this making of just infuriated me more. The first part is spent with everyone involved pretty much saying that there was no need for a sequel and their reluctance to be involved in the project, then they fail to justify why the did it. The director doesnt even seem to know what the hell the movie is supposed to be. The fact that these people have film careers and I dont is very infuriating.

Deleted Scenes: (6 min.) Pretty worthless, but that’s on par with the rest of this DVD.

Utah Too Much: (6 min.) Some of the guys in the cast wrote a silly song about Utah; sadly, this is the most interesting thing on this DVD and its not even that good.

Trailer

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Ill give this film one thing. It managed to be bad on new levels that I didnt even know existed. This is a horrible, horrible film and if you have any love of the first Darko then you will not tarnish your view of it with this so called sequel. Avoid at all costs!

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20th Century Fox presents S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale. Directed by Chris Fisher. Written by Nathan Atkins. Based on characters by Richard Kelly. Starring Daveigh Chase, Briana Evigan, James Lafferty and Ed Westwick. Running time: 103 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: May 12, 2009. Available at Amazon.com.

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