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Demonic bunnies and acid trips: A review of S. Darko

June 11, 2009

I remember renting “Donnie Darko” when I was a teen. I forced my parents to watch the movie with me because I was certain it would be amazing. While my parents only made it through the film’s first 45 minutes, I sat enthralled for its entirety. I love the film’s subtle sci-fi elements, horror imagery and philosophical debate of free will vs destiny. When “Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut” came out, I was thrilled. The cut filled a lot of plot holes the theatrical version left empty.

So, when I found out there was a “Donnie Darko” sequel, I got rather irritated. I was especially angered when I heard the film had a different director and writer. After I calmed myself down and realized I’m a pathetic fan girl, I thought, “Hell. I might as well give it a look see.”

“S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale,” is just that – it’s only a tale. The film shows us Samantha Darko, Donnie’s younger sister, seven years after her brother’s death. Samantha and her friend, Corey, set out on a road trip at the beginning of the film.

While the girls are driving along the lush countryside, high out of their minds on acid, Corey’s car breaks down. A young man from a nearby town helps the ladies get the car to a shop, and gives them a ride to a local hotel. Once the girls arrive at the hotel, many odd things, such as a meteor crash and a church fire, start to happen.

Through out the film, many “Donnie Darko” references are made:

1) Frank the demonic bunny is the tie between the time travelers (the image appears in Donnie’s old book, as a mask, and in a salad. Yes. A salad)
2) Roberta Sparrow’s book is reintroduced and we meet one of her relatives
3) There are wacky religious people who are up to no good
4) Young children are in peril

Samantha also has the same sleepwalking problem Donnie had, but instead of seeing Frank the Bunny when she slumbers, Samantha is the “demonic” leader/icon…whatever. When she sleepwalks, she appears (in dead bloody goth girl form) in front of town psycho, Iraq Jack, a young war vet who is accused of kidnapping two of the town’s young boys. As his visions become more vivid, and the day the world will end comes closer, many of the story’s characters’ lives begin to intertwine, leading to an odd, “so, what is the meaning of life,” ending.

While the film was hard to follow, I enjoyed the movie for many reasons.

While S. Darko was obviously inspired by “Donnie Darko,” it wasn’t a sequel. The film’s writer described the movie as a continuation of the Darko story. The movie can be enjoyed on its own.

S. Darko does a great job of recreating the trippy, hippie feel of the mid 90s, just as Donnie Darko recreated the 80s vibe. The characters wore heart-shaped, jewel-embellished sunglasses, cheap rave kid jewelry, and partied to psychedelic grunge rock.

The same actress who played Samantha in “Donnie Darko” was Samantha in this film. Daveigh Chase does a nice job of playing the grumbly, slightly psychotic, sleep deprived teen.

The only thing I didn’t like about the film was its use of semi-translucent imagery. Whenever Samantha fell asleep, she would find a glowing feather. I don’t know why this feather kept appearing before her. Was it her power possession? Her spirit guide? Her death bringer? Anyway…it was a bit cheesy. The filmmakers also used the same type of imagery to show the “pathways” that radiated off people, and the meteors that damaged the town.

Despite the cheesy, glowing orbs, I think the film is a success.

I’m sure a lot of people disagree with me, but hey, that’s OK!

“S. Darko” is a good, mid length, semi-philosophical sci-fi flick.

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