Thursday, 27 May 2010

S. Darko

Title: S. Darko
Director: Chris Fisher
Released: 2009
Staring: Daveigh Chase, Briana Evigan, Ed Westwick, James Lafferty, Jackson Rathbone, Elizabeth Berkley, Matthew Davis

Rating: 1 / 5

Plot: Set seven years after the events of “Donnie Darko”, Donnie’s youngest sister Samantha (Chase), now 18 sets out on a road trip to Los Angeles with her rebellious best friend Corey (Evigan), only to find themselves stranded in small desert town. Meanwhile a traumatised desert storm vet Iraq Jack (Lafferty) begins to have visions that the world will end in four days.

Review: For too long this film, has been like the elephant in the room, that no one really wants to acknowledge is there, for not only is it a sequel to a cult classic that never needed a sequel, but it’s a sloppily made one at best, which only makes it all the more surprising that I haven’t seen it on any of the blogs I regularly check out. So after being taunted by this film since its direct to DVD release, I finally decided to give it a watch, with an open mind, knowing full well that it could never come close to the genius of Richard Kelly’s original film which I have watched countless times and is a film which has never lost the power it held over me, the first time I watched it, though the same really can not be said for this film, which despite approaching it with the kind of open mindedness I tend to reserve for anything Noel Clarke (who went from almost killing the new Doctor Who series with the banal and frequently irritating Mickey, to penning garbage like Kidulthood) is involved with and like those films, this film was an experience only describable as cinematic root canal surgery.

Right from the beginning almost it seems that Director Fisher is desperately trying to capture the surreal world of the original, as clouds suddenly come to life, as Samantha and Corey drive through the desert. Still this is a real warning sign of what is still to come, as these surreal visions constantly make intrudes into the real world, making it often hard at times to distinguish between what is actually happening and what is all in the head of the characters, something that the original did well blurring the line between the two worlds, so that although they threatened to cross over, they never actually became the same world. Meanwhile the story attempts to skim the surface ideas of the original and hammer them into this new story, while at the same time sprinkling in a splattering of snapshot references to the original, like a girl bouncing on a trampoline wearing a lincoln mask, which might be subtle enough, but when you look at scenes like Samatha’s conversation with Pastor John (Davis) at the cinema that almost verges on plagiarism, as the whole scene just has a little too much familiarity to it.
Still these are minor niggles, compared to the most confusing thing which is carried across from the original, which is Frank’s bunny mask, which like his whole bunny costume became such an iconic and memorable image from the original film, but the fact the mask turns up again here, with Iraq Jack hammering out his own version of the mask, with no real justification as to why, other than a vague reference to Donnie, which is never fully explained much like why the dream guide in this film comes to Iraq Jack in the form of a dead Samantha? After all Frank being the dream guide in the first film made sense seeing how he was killed by Donnie, but Samantha and Iraq Jack share none of these connections, with his connection to Roberta “Grandma Death” Sparrow being so flimsy it almost seems like an afterthought pencilled into the script, to give yet another nod to the original.

The choice to use Samantha as the character to start a franchise with is certainly an interesting choice, especially when you consider that her only real contribution to the plot of the original, other than her naivety was her dedication to sparkle motion, which its true was interesting enough, seeing how the death of a loved one can change someone so radically, though her appearance in the film seems to only have the minimal amount of impact in terms of plot, as by the end of the film, you realise that she could never have turned up in this town and nothing would have really changed, which only further highlights that this really is a sequel in name only, as well as the flimsiness of the idea of turning “Donnie Darko” (2001) into a franchise which even now as I sit here writing this, is looking at having a second sequel made, which again Richard Kelly has wisely been quick to distance himself from.
For myself though one the most amusing aspects of the disc, is the making of feature in which director Fisher, not only comes off as an arrogant prick, but almost seems surprised that this film has come under such backlash from the fans of the original, while writer (yes someone actually wrote a script for this) Nathan Atkins appears to continually stumble over excuses for the film being the way it is, while constantly being afraid that he might actually meet the man, whose ideas he has butchered with this hackneyed sequel, despite both of their claims of being huge fans of the original, which makes you think that if they were such fans, why didn’t they just leave it the hell alone?

“S. Darko” is such a mess of a film, that despite sharing many of the key themes with the original, such as time travel, parallel universes and the power of fate, continuously fails to spark even the most basic of interest, as the majority of the events seem far to random to link together, while none of the characters are overly likeable, having been moulded to much into oddball caricatures, so that the majority of the time (much like the audience) don’t seem to really care about anything which is happening around them, as it staggers towards it’s uninspired ending, which even then still leaves far to many unanswered questions, which Fisher never bothers to even clear up, such as who murdered the two young boys, or what the hell is the boil thing, which is growing out of the neck of the science loving nerd Jeremy (Rathbone) after his contact with the original meteor. Still the most confusing of these is the inclusion around the halfway point of Samantha getting killed in a road accident, only for Corey to go back in time to trade places with her, which serves absolutely zero purpose to the plot, other than to give it one less annoying character to tolerate.

It’s hard to say if this film would have been any better without the references or connection to the first film, especially when it seems to often be weird for the sake of being weird, rather than for anything resembling furthering the story or plot, while only really working to increase my appreciation for Kelly’s original cut of “Donnie Darko” which even he came unstuck with, when he attempted to edit it into the inferior directors cut. True there might have been some fun promo materials for the film turn up on Youtube, though sadly it was a lot more inspired than this film, which as I’ve stated already, is a sequel in name only and only worth watching if you want to reassure yourself of how inspired the original was, as to seek anything further will sadly just lead to disappointment.


  1. I really don't need, nor do I want to watch this one. I consider "Donnie Darko" to be one of the most unique and emotional movies I've ever seen, and it's really not necessary to fuck its image up with a sloppy sequel.

    It may be worth something, since as you said it's 'only worth watching if you want to reassure yourself of how inspired the original was.'

    Great review.

  2. I decided never to see this film.

    Thank you for confirming this decision.

  3. I still remember the scummy cinema I first saw the original in and how it made me want to phone people up, just to tell them about this amazing movie I'd just seen. I love Richard Kelly's films, even Domino has its charm, especially if you overdub Keira Knightly.

    Seriously though Iraq Jack is the sole redeaming character and he does have a cool looking Frank mask, yet despite this film basically riping off the key points of the original, there are still some people, who claim this is a better movie, as a quick check of the IMDB message boards confirmed.


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