Movie Review: S. DARKO20th Century Fox

“Four days, 17 hours, 26 minutes, 31 seconds. That is when the world will end.”

July, 1995, the time is out of joint. Two teen girls, Sam and Corey, have left Virginia for L.A. to start over. Sam’s brother has died and her family’s shattered; Corey’s too wild. They have car trouble in a small desert town, where Corey immediately starts her partying ways, where a meteorite strikes a windmill, and where a burned-out Desert Storm vet predicts the end of the world in four days. Sam hallucinates while sleepwalking, young men have disappeared from town, and cars come out of nowhere to cause accidents. Time travel may be possible, but it takes courage and resolve. Is the addled war veteran right? If he is, can Corey or Sam make things right?

I’ll preface this review by saying that I am a big fan of the movie Donnie Darko. I own the movie, and watch it frequently. I fall in with the many who find Donnie Darko to be a very well-done independent flick, a period piece that blurred the lines between fantasy and reality, had a very poignant existential theme, and managed to pull off a sci-fi time travel theory angle without an ounce of cheesiness. The movie was also where I began to foster my fan crush on Maggie Gyllenhaal, despite also featuring another one of my fan crushes — Drew Barrymore. Seriously, I can’t really see ever getting tired of watching Donnie Darko.

So, yeah, when I discovered there was a direct-to-video sequel to Donnie Darko, focusing on Donnie’s younger sister Samantha, and made by some guy who wasn’t involved in the first movie, my first thought was “pointless Hollywood sequel.” Sure, morbid curiosity made me want to check it out once, that was inevitable. But I did at least wait until S. Darko was available on the $1 Rental rack at my local rental store. That way, at least I would have been out only a buck…a dollar that more often than not could have been put to more satisfying use at Taco Bell. But I digress…

I will say this — S. Darko could have been a disaster. I know how easy it could have been to just take the basic surface points of the original, and completely skip over the deeper aspects that made that a good film. Happens all the time with sequels and remakes. And while the famous Frank the Bunny mask does come into play, it’s regulated to the backburner in the overall story.

I think that having a director who was a fan of the original film, and wanting to make something that was more of a companion piece than an actual sequel, something true to the spirit of the original, worked in S. Darko’s favor. Truly, it could have been way worse than what it was. The movie had that dark trippy tone, and there were some truly creepy moments as well as some twists on the original to give it more of an identity of its own.

As a movie in and of itself, S. Darko is actually quite decent. A dark little existential fantasy that doesn’t take the easy ending route. Problem lies in the unavoidable comparison to the source movie, in which there is a noticeable lack of charm that keeps me from wanting to watch S. Darko more than once, let alone own it. I would recommend at least checking it out, though. You might be surprised…