S. Darko – Cert 15



Starring Daveigh Chase, Kristina Malota and James Lafferty. Directed by Chris Fisher and based on the characters by Richard Kelly.



Thoughts Before

This weeks special review is for the straight-to-DVD release of the relatively unknown

S. Darko - Cert 15

Starring Daveigh Chase, Kristina Malota and James Lafferty. Directed by Chris Fisher and based on the characters by Richard Kelly.

Thoughts Before

This weeks special review is for the straight-to-DVD release of the relatively unknown sequel to the 2001 release Donnie Darko. I got the chance to view a preview of this before it's (currently US only) release and thought I'd share the thoughts on this for those interested in importing this.

Anyone who's seen the sublime Donnie Darko will know this sequel only exists because of the original's success. Coming out of nowhere nearly a decade ago (can you believe that!) it shot to acclaim from critics and movie-lovers alike. The surprise UK Chart hit 'Mad World' spread the word of the movie and it was re-released shortly afterwards.

It's one of those low budget cult gems that transcended its small budget and baffling plot to be a firm mainstream success and be part of a good majority of movie shelves across the land. It made stars of the Gyllenhaal siblings and put writer / director Richard Kelly firmly on the respected list across Hollywood - even though his second feature Southland Tales was terribly mediocre and equally as baffling.

So S. Darko, following Donnie's younger sister seven years after the originals events, is probably one of the most anticipated 'straight to DVD' films this year. The lack of a cinema release, the lack of any of the original cast (except the younger sister, played by the now quite gorgeous Daveigh Chase) and this is also the screenplay writer's first attempt at a full length feature suggests this is going to be dire...

Thoughts Afterwards

My fears have been confirmed. All the clues were there that this was going to be terrible and I seemingly ignored them all.

S. Darko starts off okay though, mimicking the original movie with pretty shots of sunrises and American landscapes. IfThe camera pans up, across and all over - with blur and focus interchanging lots - as if the director is desperately to win over the viewer with pleas of 'look at these beautiful shots! I'm a good director! Believe me!'

It's a shame the picturesque shots had to end.

We're then introduced to Samantha Darko (the aforementioned Daveigh Chase, who shone on the screen and was only let-down by the script) and her plucky (see: annoying) best friend Corey (played by the forgettable Briana Evigan). They're travelling across the country for reasons unknown (usual parent troubles from what I can tell) when their car breaks down in the middle of an isolated desert. Luckily a dashing rogue in a sports car stops by shortly afterwards and offers to take them to town!

This first 10 minutes, and for a good majority of the first half, plays out like an emotionless episode of The OC and had no of that glorious vibe that Donnie Darko had. Although some of the music is pretty nice and sets the mood well it didn't inspire and evoke the emotion that was so important the first time round.

The rest of the movie plays out like a bad homage to the original. A list of elements that are used in S. Darko (though as a warning this includes spoilers for the first movie, so avoid if you haven't seen!):

1. "The world will end in..." plotline repeats itself, except this time it's only a week.

2. A mysterious figure with the 'Frank' voice tells a sleepwalker they must burn another building 'to the ground'.

3. A character is saved by a mysterious figure at night, which saves their life from a large object that crashes down very shortly afterwards.

4. There is a scene in a cinema, featuring a flash-forward on the cinema screen and filmed in the same angle.

5. The ending features a sad song playing and characters being awakened suddenly.

6. A character sacrifices her life by creating a 'portal' back in time. More than once. Yeah...

Those are just the ones from the top of my head. Annoyingly however there are very little frames of references to the actual first movie, aside from an appearance of a time travel book and a brief mention about Donnie's older sister.

I think the movie's biggest problem is the writer didn't understand the original movie at all. Don't get me wrong, I'm aware there are various ways it can be taken and it's not as deep as some people make out - but viewing Donnie Darko can spark conversation about what had happened and what it meant to them. Repeated viewings opened up different meanings potentially.

S. Darko on the other hand genuinely makes no sense. The ending was absolutely absurd (featuring some kind of astronomy and murder rubbish) that left little there for genuine interpretation without leaving gaping plotholes that are impossible to ignore. The writer didn't seem to understand the basic concepts of the first movie, wrote in characters that evoked no emotional connections from the viewer at all (Iraq Jack, really?) and tied up very few loose-ends by the time the credits rolled.

It's a shame this turned out as it did. Being a Donnie Darko sequel required some kind of baffling goings-on but I would have much preferred a simpler plot that made sense than something trying too hard and failing embarrassingly badly. If this gets a UK release date then it's perhaps worth your time if you loved the original - and only then so you can see how terrible the first could have been. If you aren't a fan of the original then avoid this completely.