MONKEY REVIEW: S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale
May 14, 2009
CONTAINS SOME MILD SPOILERS
S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale is a somewhat tardy and ultimately pretty pointless direct to video sequel to the 2001 cult classic Donnie Darko that was conceived without the involvement of the original’s writer and director Richard Kelly, who has gone on record saying he will also not profit in any way from it. Set eight years after Donnie Darko, it focuses on Donnie’s younger sister, Sparkle Motion member Samantha (Daveigh Chase, the only returning cast member from the original), who, on a road trip to Las Vegas with a friend, Corey (Briana Evigan, who looks rather like a teenage Demi Moore), breaks down in a small Utah town. While waiting for their car to be repaired, Samantha and Corey, who seem to be dressed in less and less as the movie progresses, begin to interact with the town’s inhabitants, who are as quirky and troubled as they are. Not soon after, strange things begin happening, including odd visions, “gnarly” rashes, scary portents and the appearance of a certain rabbit and a time travel book from the first movie. (A white unicorn is also spotted flying through the clouds early on, but the less said about this, the better.) It also becomes pretty clear that S. Darko is going to settle for being essentially a retread of the original, though curiously the Donnie role is inherited not by Samantha, but by a young battle scarred veteran not so creatively named Iraq Jack (James Lafferty). As for Samantha, she, or at least a zombie version of her, seems to be assuming Frank’s role from the original, though Iraq Jack gets to don the rabbit mask, not her. Director Chris Fisher tries hard to give S. Darko the sort of rich, eerie atmosphere the first movie had, with fair to middling results, though the film is beautifully shot and contains some dazzling visuals. The central problem is Fisher and writer Nathan Atkins, despite coming up with some potentially intriguing ideas, seem mostly content to create a “greatest hits” set of elements from the first movie and transplant them from suburban Virginia to small town Utah. S. Darko almost completely lacks the humor of its precedessor, and makes the finally fatal flaw of mistaking obscurity for mystery. The mostly young and attractive cast does what they can with the limited material, not to mention some pretty poor dialogue at times. Chase makes a reasonably good impression, though her role primarily requires her to walk around a lot and look mopey, which is basically what most everyone else is doing in the movie, anyway. I didn’t find S. Darko to be a terribly made movie, but its unwillingness to go beyond what the filmmakers have referred to as Richard Kelly’s “universe” created in Donnie Darko makes one wonder why they bothered to make this in the first place. (Oh, right, money.) One thing it does have going for it is some evocative and beautiful music courtesy of musician Ed Harcourt, and some effective uses of songs like “The Carnival Is Over” by Dead Can Dance and “Heaven Or Las Vegas” by the Cocteau Twins. If there’s ever a soundtrack, that may be worth getting. This movie? Not really.
MONKEY RATING: FOUR M.(ONKEY) DARKOS
(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)
This is my original blog post about this movie: S. Darko – Donnie Darko sequel?