51e9j3ofrl_sl500_aa240_S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale (2009, Fox)
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From the “unnecessary sequels to films that don’t need a sequel” department comes S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale, a follow up to Richard Kelly’s 2001 Donnie Darko, a film about a teenage boy whose life changes when an airplane engine crashes into his bedroom and disrupts the space time continuum. Donnie Darko was not only imaginative and haunting, but featured touching performances by Jake Gyllenhaal (as Donnie), Mary McDonnell and Jena Malone. This new film, released exclusively on DVD and Blu-ray, picks up seven years after the end of Donnie Darko and follows Donnie’s little sister, Samantha, as she experiences her own mind-bending trip somewhere in the desert.

Having left her home and family back in Virginia, Samantha (Daveigh Chase, reprising the role she originated in Donnie Darko) is on the way to California with her free spirited friend, Corey (Briana Evigan). Fleeing her bizarre and tragic past (the events laid out in Donnie Darko), Samantha is depressed and lost. When the girls’ car breaks down in some remote desert town, they are helped by a pensive, chain-smoking hipster named Randy, played by Gossip Girl star, Ed Westwick, who seems to be channeling Joaquin Phoenix. Randy leads them into town and through his acquaintance the girls easily fall in with the locals. Their first night there, they witness a meteorite crash to earth, and that’s when the weirdness and the similarities to the original film begin.

Samantha begins sleepwalking experiencing visions of herself, head bloodied and dressed in a formal gown. Her dream self meets a Desert Storm vet known as Iraq Jack (James Lafferty), a suspect in a missing child case, mainly because he’s the town misfit (voices in his head, post-traumatic stress syndrome). The local sheriff (Bret Roberts) has it in for him, while the creepy minister (Mathew Davis) and his devout follower (Elizabeth Berkley) seem to throw the blame toward him as well. As Samantha and Jack’s lives become intertwined, two tragic deaths occur (one of them shocking) and Jack realizes the sacrifice he must make in order to save the world.

Although there are obvious parallels between S. Darko and Donnie Darko, such as depressed sleepwalkers, eerie visions pf the apocalypse, hypocritical religious leaders and the sinister-looking rabbit head, S. Darko lacks the singular vision of Richard Kelly. S. Darko comes off as a frustrating, clunky imitation of the original. While I’m sure that screenwriter Nathan Atkins and director Chris Fisher did their best to make S. Darko its own film, it was a lost cause to begin with. Without Kelly’s involvement, this film is like someone directing a sequel to Lost Highway without David Lynch’s input.

I should point out that S. Darko is beautifully shot by cinematographer Marvin Rushthat would work great if you turned down the sound, put on some Dead Can Dance, and let the images flow in front of you. Other than that I can’t really recommend S. Darko. More satisfying than the actual film is the making of documentary included with the special features. In it, the screenwriter and some of the actors express their initial apprehension to the project. They should have listened to their inner voices.

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About the Author

Scott Malchus

Scott Malchus is a writer, filmmaker and die hard Cleveland Indians fan. His memoir, “Basement Songs,” is available in paperback and Kindle. He wrote and directed the film “King's Highway." His family is heavily involved in fund raising to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. Scott Malchus is an employee of Cartoon Network and Turner Broadcasting. The opinions expressed on Popdose are his own and do not reflect those of his employer. Email: Malchus@popdose.com. Follow him @MrMalchus

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