So, on the second review, and due to my desire to stick with Direct to Video/Direct to Television releases, I finally have an excuse to watch something I’ve been curious about for a while. Back in 2001, a movie by the name of Donnie Darko premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and was well received enough to be moved from its planned Direct to Video release to a theatrical release. The movie, though not technically successful in the box office, has garnered a significant cult following, and has become something of a modern classic (yes, I know that phrase doesn’t really make sense). Apparently hoping that lightening could strike twice, the producer of the movie and one actress from it made a sequel, seven years later. Oh, and they were the only two people from the first movie that had any involvement whatsoever in the production of the sequel. Well, I’m sure that worked out well, right?
The movie in question is S. Darko, a sequel in a technical sense, as it was made after the movie it is named after. But, is it really worth the one dollar I paid to rent it? Well, perhaps.
The movie opens with a text crawl, telling us of the events of the first movie, in which Donnie set everything right by rewinding time and dying from a plane engine crashing through his room… a plane engine from 28 days into the future. Yeah, this was one thing that bugged me about the text crawl. Wouldn’t there be some kind of identifying method to tell what plane an engine came from so they could deal with the legal matters of, say, it falling on someone’s face from 30,000 feet? And if so, wouldn’t they know something really weird was going on when the identified engine was from a plane with a perfectly attached engine? Maybe retighten the screws and start praying to the Elder Things, cause that’s the first sign of their return.
Oh, and also, the main character is Donnie’s youngest sister, the only actress to return to the movie, and conveniently, she has run away from home, so that we don’t have any confusion as to why anyone else isn’t around. In any case, she is traveling across the country with her “best friend” (and I use that term pretty loosely), Corey. They apparently spent the night at the most ornate truckstop ever, and are now on their way to California to put a picture in a dinosaur or something. They haven’t said what they’re doing yet. And we reach the first problem of the movie: Quite frankly, it’s boring. In the first five minutes of the original movie, we saw numerous people, doing various things, even if those things were more boring. In this, its the same two people for about the first seven minutes, and it takes a good ten plus minutes for weird stuff to start happening. Also, Donnie is interesting as a character in the first 10 minutes, angry and obviously screwed up. Samantha is dull, as is Corey. They remind me of normal, uninteresting teenagers, not the sort with any reason to be viable protagonists in a Donnie Darko movie. In this regard the movie would have worked if it were the first one and Donnie Darko were the second, but there is a good reason for why that couldn’t have happened, which I will get to in a moment.
In any case, the pair continues on till their car breaks down and Dean from The Iron Giant comes by to help fix it. They end up in a small town, stuck until the car can be fixed. Again, this is still in the first ten minutes, but it drags pretty badly. In the town, they learn of a missing boy, and we get the date on the screen for the next day. Hey, wait a second, didn’t that exact thing happen in the first movie? Anyway, Sam gets a feather from the poltergeist, and talks to our insane “reciever” for the movie, Iraq Jack. I’ll call him by his character’s actual name, Justin, for the remainder. Also, Sam looks different, and she tells him to save himself. Wait, what? If she is the “manipulated dead,” then how does this all work if he is supposed to die?
And we get out big problem with the movie: Every single thing appears to be a direct copy of something from the original movie. There is almost no originality in this movie. The biggest difference this time is that the titular character is the new Frank, though this movie does have another character named Frank. In any case, we get padding for a bit, with the introduction of the third and final piece of Donnie. You see, even Donnie is in the movie, in the form of three characters: Corey is the jerk part of Donnie, Justin is the crazy part of Donnie, and Jeremy is the awkward in relationships part of Donnie, as well as the killer of the main “manipulated dead.” Also, we come across our Patrick Swayze character, who oddly enough is little more than a standard religious idiot. Justin begins swiping stuff for something, and comes across Randy (I called him Dean earlier), and tries to tell Randy that the world is going to end, and that the “princess” can save Billy. I’ll comment on this again later.
We get more padding in the form of a party, and Randy invites Sam to visit his little brother’s room in what quickly becomes the creepiest scene of the movie. Yeah, a Donnie Darko movie where the creepiest scene has nothing to do with pedophile Patrick Swayze. Sam visits Justin again, sparking his destruction of the church. Oh, yeah, like in the first movie. Movie is about a third of the way through, but it feels much longer by this point. Sam meets Trudy, a local member of the church played by Elizabeth Berkley, in the second worst movie she’s been in. Though her description of Jesus is pretty awesome, and the phrase “anus sex” is hilarious. There are a lot of little things that combine to what would have been really neat twist moments in most other movies, but again, this movie doesn’t do a good job of distinguishing itself from the first. The marquee on the local theater does break a pretty important rule of not referencing a better movie in the middle of your crappy movie, but it plays into the later parts of the movie. I mention it here due to a critical research failure: Twelve Monkeys came out in December of 95 as a limited release, five months after this movie is supposed to be taking place. In any case, the montage builds up to a great reveal of a very cool metal Frank mask, but after that we get a surprisingly original scene in which Sam gets killed in a car accident caused by both Justin stealing a chain and another time tunnel. Afterwords, we see the time travel book from the first movie, a poem Sam wrote in the first movie, and the little kid acting as the new “manipulated dead” to control the new “receiver,” Corey. She ends up going to this gate in the hills near town, and travels back to the car moments before the crash in what is the best scene in the movie.
Question: If you had only two minutes to live, and you had a chance to talk to your best friend, but couldn’t save yourself, what would you say? What would you do? This is a really great scene, which honestly doesn’t belong in a movie of this mediocre to low quality.
So, after that moment of greatness, back to our regularly scheduled mediocrity. Sam looks through the same stuff that Corey did back in the room before heading out and eventually meeting Justin. Before that, though, she comes to the burned out church, and the pastor tries using the Word of the Lord to put the moves on the girl, which is, of course, not cool. She leaves and comes across Justin, who is (hope you’re sitting down for this) the grandson of the woman who wrote the time travel theory book from the first movie. Yeah, this is just lazy. It isn’t like they couldn’t have just let it be some random guy with a mental illness, it HAD to be the woman’s grandson. After a reasonably well-written scene (the last really interesting one in the movie), Sam doesn’t remember any of her previous meetings with Justin, and it is pretty creepy with he puts on the Frank mask. She finds a key near the gate we saw earlier when Corey traveled back, and it is attached to a bracelet Trudy had. She opens the gate and finds Billy, dead. And honestly, the rest of the movie is pretty damn atrocious, because we get to the ultimate plot hole here: Justin says that the Princess, obviously Sam, can save the kids, but we see after the ending that she doesn’t actually do so, since she forgets everything from the tangent universe and Justin is dead. In the final scene, again copying the final scene from the original movie, we see Little Billy stick his hand through the bars, never to be scene again. So, yeah, S Darko ends with implied child death and the murderer getting away with it. I’m sorry, I was under the impression this was a Donnie Darko movie, not a generic horror film with a hopeless ending.
Honestly, there is no real reason to see this movie. There is a total of one really good scene, and the rest is pointless and depressing by the end. While there are some visually interesting parts of the movie, like the theater marquee letters rearranging to spell something behind Sam as she leaves to meet Justin, it just doesn’t have the same character as the first movie. Donnie Darko was a brilliant movie, the kind of movie you watch expecting to not find anything quite like it again. Yet, in this case, when you find a movie exactly like it, it just seems so inferior. I’m not the kind to say that all sequels are bad or unnecessary, but in this case, that is exactly what happened.
Theft is a grave sin, but perhaps the most accurate sins for this movie are greed and maybe a little betrayal. And as you might remember, the traitors are the ones at the very deepest depths of the inferno.