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S. Darko (2009)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/12/2009

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/23/2009

Have you ever watched a movie and enjoyed it so much that you try to imagine what a sequel could be like? I think that any true movie fan has done this on at least one occasion, and this occurrence is the mark of a truly good movie. Some even take it as far as to share their ideas with others and create "fan-fiction". (I've got an idea for a sequel to The Truman Show which actually makes sense.) However, when I watched Donnie Darko, I was satisfied with the film and the idea (or necessity) of a sequel never crossed my mind. Well, apparently it crossed someone else's, as we are now presented with S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale. What could this movie be?

A pre-credit text sequence tells us that S. Darko takes place in 1995, seven years after the events of Donnie Darko. As her parents were devastated by Donnie's death, Samantha Darko (Daveigh Chase, who played Samantha in the original film) has run away from home. Samantha and her friend, Corey (Briana Evigan), are heading to California to work in Corey's Dad's club. Their car breaks down in a small town in Utah. As they are waiting for the car to be repaired, they become involved in the strange events of the town. A small boy is missing, and all of locals suspect that war veteran Iraq Jack (James Lafferty) is involved. Randy (Ed Westwick) offers to show the girls around town, while Jeremy (Jackson Rathbone), who is clearly attracted to Samantha, tries to buy their affection. As Samantha explores the town, she meets Pastor John (Matthew Davis) who runs a church, along with Trudy (Elizabeth Berkley), his biggest disciple. The tranquil exterior of the town is soon broken by meteor showers and vandalism. Samantha sleepwalks and Iraq Jack begins to have visions of Samantha as a corpse. Then everybody dies...a lot.

OK, let's think about this. Donnie Darko is a cult movie which has a very devoted following. Therefore, fans will be very critical and hypersensitive to the idea of a sequel to their beloved film. Knowing this, you would think that the makers of S. Darko would want to immediately engage and reassure the audience that everything was going to be allright. Because, as weird as Donnie Darko is, the beginning is fairly straight-forward and it draws the viewer in. This isn't the case with S. Darko. Other than the text at the beginning, we are given very little information and things only get worse from there.

We hear the term "filmmaking by committee" used often, and S. Darko may be the ultimate film to have that feeling. While watching it, I couldn't help but picture someone saying, "I've got an idea for a sequel to Donnie Darko." to which a producer answered, "That's great! Now take those ideas and incorporate this list of ideas and scenes from the first film into the new movie." Thus, the result is a project which never gels. The ways in which S. Darko tries to bring in visuals from Donnie Darko is laughable and insulting. We get a tracking shot with varying speeds going through a party, a scene in a movie theater, a couple riding a bike, and a Trans Am. The most ludicrous inclusion is the appearance of a Frank the Bunny mask. This is only here to remind us of the first movie. Would Samantha have even seen the mask in 1988.

Even if you can forgive the ham-handed references to the first film, S. Darko is still a confusing failure. I would be lying if I said that I 100% understood the ending of Donnie Darko (there are some plotholes there), but I got the gist. S. Darko gets so out of control that I had no idea what was happening. Director Chris Fisher (who made the abysmal Nightstalker) and Writer Nathan Atkins (who has, ironically, worked as an editor) are either purposely trying to confuse us or they themselves have no idea what is happening. The film introduces too many characters and then tells us nothing about them. We then get a series of supernatural events which seemingly happen at random. While Donnie Darko isn't the most straight-forward movie, there is essentially one big event and then some smaller ones. In S. Darko, there's something odd happening every few minutes and none of it ever flows. I wouldn't be surprised is Fisher came forward to admit that the scenes had been placed together in the wrong order.

Over the years, we've seen plenty of direct-to-video sequels which were made just to cash in on a successful movie, but S. Darko is a head-scratcher. The movie itself is frustrating and boring and the way in which it apes Donnie Darko borders on embarrassing. The only group to which I can recommend this film are fans of Gossip Girl, so that they can see Ed Westwick playing someone who is a far cry from Chuck Bass.

S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale wears a stupid human suit on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very nice and the image is never too dark or bright. The landscape shots show excellent depth and the picture is very detailed. For such a bad movie, this is a nice transfer. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good, as they show nice stereo separation. The surround sound effects are great, most notably when used with the "Frank" voice and during a meteor shower. The finale offers great subwoofer effects.

The S. Darko Blu-ray Disc contains four extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Chris Fisher, Writher Nathan Atkins, and Cinematographer Marvin V. Rush. "The Making of S. Darko" (15 minutes) contains interviews with the director, writer, and producers, who discuss the motivation for the film and how the project got off the ground (and the writer mentions an idea which would have been better than this movie). We also hear from the actors, who discuss their characters. "Utah Too Much" (7 minutes) has actor John Hawkes explaining and playing a song which he and some others wrote while making the movie. We then hear other comments about what it was like to shoot the film in Utah. The Disc contains six DELETED SCENES which run about six minutes. The scenes are all brief and don't add much, although we do get one new character.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long