S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale (2009)

s darko

“How do you explain midgets or sock monkeys? I don’t know!”

The Scoop: 2009 R, directed by Chris Fisher and starring Daveigh Chase, Briana Evigan, and Ed Westwick.

Tagline: It’s Time To Travel Forward

Summary Capsule: In 1995, seven years after the events, or, in this timeline, event, of the last movie, Donnie’s little sister Samantha is traveling cross country with her best friend when their car breaks down. Nothing really happens for the next hour and 38 minutes.

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Eunice’s rating: What happens when one of cult’s sacred bovine’s gets turned into a horse so dead no one can be bothered to beat it, just kinda poke it with a stick. Halfheartedly.

Eunice’s review: In 2001 Richard Kelly unleashed a little movie called Donnie Darko. Set in 1988, it’s about a boy and his giant rabbit, like Harvey only with more death and quantum mechanics (I kid). To say it developed a strong following is like saying water is wet — duh. For me personally, just hearing the jewelry box style piano of Michael Andrews and Gary Jules’ cover of Mad World is enough to trigger an instant sense memory of the movie. Whether you’re a fan or you think it’s overrated, there’s no denying it has become a member of the cult movie pantheon.

At some point someone decided it was a good idea to make a sequel. Then someone else agreed, and so on until it saw fruition. *sigh*

I received my rental in the mail and for seven days its nonexistent eyes followed me, mocking. Having already lived through the great Lost Boys: The Tribe disaster of 2008, I thought I’d have to suffer the same kind of outrageous garbage. If only I were so lucky.

If S. Darko had been that kind of bad I would’ve been able to mock it MST3k style, or work up a nice hate. But it’s what, in my opinion, is the worst kind of bad movie there is: Mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly boring – with a heaping side of stupid. Because of this, I’m having a really hard time remembering what the heck I just watched, so I decided to do my second viewing alongside writing the review, because, quite frankly, I can’t do it any other way.

We begin with thrilling scrolling text, in an almost unreadable font, that reminds us how Donnie Darko ended. It has the line “The government never located the plane from which the engine fell, nor did they even admit the incident ever occurred.” I cannot express how much this sentence bothers me. One: How do you know they never found the plane if they don’t even admit it happened? Huh? Two: It sounds like the opening to bad Mary Sue fanfic. Does not bode well methinks. The Great Exposition goes on to tell us that Samantha “Drowning in sadness and unable to dream, she has drifted deeper and deeper into the darkness of her sleep. And when darkness consumes the starlight, nightmares rule the night…” And Samantha met up with Willow and Tom Cruise in a miniskirt, and they all rode a Luck Dragon in order to save The Underground from Skeksis.

But perhaps I’m being too hard, it is only the ope- Holy frijoles, less than four minutes in and, I swear, there’s a unicorn!

After an eternity of nothing happening the car breaks down and, in an exchange of lifeless flat dialogue, delivered with flat lifeless acting, they decide to wait, allowing us to watch more exciting nothing as it eats up runtime and precious moments of my life. And that’s how the rest of the movie goes. Minutes of scenery dragging on because it’s deep and beautiful -and incredibly cheap to film- followed by conversations that make just slightly more sense than a Dadaist play. “The child is missing.” “Jesus, loves you, Agatha.” “Here’s your breakfast.” “I’m from Virginia.” “I was Watermelon Queen two years running.” “Dirty Iraqi vet.” “Meteors are cool.” “Jeffrey is a gay name.” “Let’s dine ‘n dash.” That’s one scene’s line of thought. More than once I found myself wondering if the writer had ever actually spoken with another human being.

Then there’s the characters. I hated Samantha’s best friend from the moment I saw her. I mean really hated her. And every male character reeks ‘pedophile,’ even the good guys. And it has Elizabeth Berkley, so that should tell you something right there. And none are interesting in the least. Let me put it this way: I got a phone call while watching and when I came back I couldn’t remember any of the characters’ names or even who they’re supposed to be in the story.

Samantha. Hmm. TSTL means Too Stupid to Live, it’s when there’s no way a character would survive if they were real because of their eye roll worthy stupidity and lack of survival instincts. Samantha Darko is TSTL. She gets in cars with strange men. Goes down dark tunnels alone while there’s a murderer on the loose. Goes to deserted areas with boys who have huge mutant/alien/zombie-ish oozing rashes. Worst of all, she knows she sleep walks and doesn’t wear a decent set of jammies, leading to many scenes of her walking around barely dressed and bare foot with all these pedophile types leering around.

One of the few points in the movie that actually caused me to react was when most of the main cast seemingly died in a freak car wreck. I did a fist pump, and then looked down at my DVD player’s run clock. Still an hour left. Crap.

Twenty minutes later I had to stop the movie because my brain kept shutting off and I couldn’t focus at all. It was then I realized that I was getting a headache, and felt jittery and vaguely nauseous. With forty something minutes still to go I gave up.

….

Round two. *sigh*

Maybe I should get back to the story (ha ha) a bit. In the small town from Hell, children have gone missing and everyone suspects a war vet who has become the town loony. The first person the girls meet and sorta befriend is (geeze let me look it up) Randy whose little brother is one of the missing kids. There’s a creepy nondenominational church and maybe something about aliens in there too. War vet Iraq Jack (who I suspect was cast from a Jake Gyllenhaal lookalike contest and not on acting ability) is this movie’s Donnie, sorta, with Samantha as Frank, sorta, and the feather from Nelson’s After the Rain video playing itself. And I don’t know why I’m bothering because all plot threads are dropped for a horrible ending and my suspicions about Samantha being a Mary Sue are confirmed and will this movie never end and then I stab my eyes out with a pencil!

It wants so bad to be Donnie Darko, but I don’t think the writer or director ever actually saw it. Even if you don’t compare, from start to finish this thing is a mess. A mess that’s lukewarm because it doesn’t have the energy to make it to hot. There is not one redeeming quality to be found here. Period.

At the end of the day I can sum up my feelings in one word – ennui. According to Webster’s, ennui is defined as: weariness and dissatisfaction resulting from inactivity or lack of interest; boredom. Yeah, sounds ‘bout right. Don’t waste your life.

And then Samantha was run over 7 minutes into the movie. Roll credits.
And then Samantha was run over 7 minutes into the movie. Roll credits.

Intermission!

  • Daveigh Chase is the same actress who played Samantha in the original.
  • Iraq Jack’s rabbit mask is an incredibly pointless knockoff of Frank’s. Me: “Nooo! No, no, no!”
  • Corey’s hair streak randomly goes from blue to yellow and then red at the end.
  • At least one of the headlines Corey pulls up, “Falling dumpster crushes local youth,” is from a viral video campaign. It was really lame.
  • The Philosophy of Time Travel, by Roberta Sparrow, is a book Richard Kelly made up that explains the theory of Tangent and Primary Universes that drives both movies.

Groovy Quotes

Repeated line: We’re so perfect. … Immaculate.

Randy: Friend okay?
Corey: She’s dead.
Randy: Road kill?
Corey: Froze to death.

Dead Sam: 4 days, 17 hours, 26 minutes, 31 seconds. That is when the world will end.

Pastor John: I can see that you’re in pain.
Sam: I’m alive.
Pastor John: Is that how you see life?
Sam: ‘Til farts taste like cherries, yeah.
Corey: What do you think God’s farts taste like?
Sam: Marshmallow Peeps?

Randy: So what’s it like in…
Sam: Virginia.
Randy: Virginia?
Sam: Sucks.

Dead Sam: Death comes to us all.

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10 comments

  1. I have to agree with you on this almost universally. I am a huge fan of the first one, and had to do a report on a movie for a film course, I figured watching the second one would be a good way to wrap in the “Dark Universe” as a whole cohessive unit. This film killed me. Flat and dull are great adjectives to apply to this film. So is unimaginative and repetitive. Even if you go by the just the mythos of their world, they made the events far too common. Samantha as both the “universal dead body” and the reciever. Iraq Jack as a receiver. Samantha’s friend as a reciever? The one continuity fit in the original, but having as many as they did completely drained the appeal and uniqueness of it, and made it appear as if the writers were unable to actually think up an interesting story to tell.

    Okay, I’m stopping here, because I’m just getting ranty, and I’ll leave this comment at this: well written piece Eunice!

  2. This review was excellent, but that’s a fact muddled somewhat by how proud I am of myself for getting the Nelson reference.

  3. >Shadow War

    AND the missing kid as a “universal dead body” too. They understood nothing about what made the first one tick! Like, instead of watching it, they saw a trailer and asked someone to tell them what happened in the movie and said “Oh, I can write a sequel to that.” Gah!

    It really is too easy to start ranting about S. Darko.

  4. Damn that movie made me rage so hard, especially since i’m a R.Kelly’s fan and Donnie Darko’s. There’s no plot, just a mess of incidents that mix. Throughout the movie, you’re just trying to understand which of the events is the main to replicate the first movie’s incident. I’m interested in seeing your review on Southland Tales the movie. Thanks.

  5. “And Samantha met up with Willow and Tom Cruise in a miniskirt, and they all rode a Luck Dragon in order to save The Underground from Skeksis.”
    I want to see that one and replace the memory of S Darko with it.

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