I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Donnie Darko

I gotta admit I was surprised by this picture. It is about a young man (named Donnie Darko [that is why the movie is called Donnie Darko, it is the dude’s name]) to whom all the weird shit happens. Like for example a demonic rabbit lures him out of bed to a golf course, whispering mysterious type business to him in a spooky voice. In the morning he comes home and, you know, a plane engine has fallen onto his bedroom. Only one thing is, nobody knows what happened to the plane the engine fell off of. And it would be bad enough to have a plane engine fall into your room in the first place, then you gotta throw in all this mysterious bermuda triangle type business too. I mean he has a hard enough time just with school work now he has to deal with this shit.

This movie didn’t get much of a release and I don’t know, maybe it’s because it’s coming out in a time when Donnie Darko’s life doesn’t seem all that different from ours. Engines do fall out of the sky. I mean they have ax fights on planes now. They have shoe bombs and shit. They’re gonna have baboon attacks pretty soon, the way things are going in my opinion. Pilots gored by elephants after that. I mean why do they allow elephants in the cargo hold anyway is what they’re gonna say. We shoulda seen that loophole.

Donnie DarkoThe story involves many elements you’ve seen before: hallucinations, teen angst, sibling fights, time travel, crazy old ladies, Patrick Swayze. The box of the video will compare it to Final Destination but it really doesn’t have that feel. It’s much more low budget and “quirky” for one thing, but it’s also more original. Like I said these are elements you’ve seen before but the way this young filmatist pieces them together and the way he unfolds them for you feels very unique.

Apparently this dude is only 26 years old and this is his first picture. Everybody told him they loved the script but he should use it as a Writing sample. It’s very original so use it to get a job Writing the same old crap everybody else Writes. Well he did the right thing, he held onto it and kept trying and wouldn’t sell it until he could direct it. Then he went and made it the way he wanted to and I’m not saying this is Citizen Kane or even the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies, but it’s nice to see a young man sticking to his guns and making a movie that doesn’t exactly fit the cookie cutter. In an age when many young men measure their success in how many pedestrians they run over while talking on their cell phones about how much money they used to make when the computer business was still a viable option, it is good to see an individual who instead makes Donnie Darko.

It should be noted that this young man chose to make the movie take place in the ’80s and put in at least one conversation about The Smurfs. He also used the sort of bad white people with casios music that was popular in that time, that some people mistakenly think is kitschy and fun and enjoyable to listen to. Nevertheless I do not think this is as self indulgent as many works of his generation and the two or three generations before him. I like how he used many Michael Dukakis references and lines up Donnie’s impending doom with the election of George Bush part I. It just seems so pathetic that Michael fucking Dukakis was our last hope. I don’t know if Donnie takes that as symbolism that he should just throw in the towel but it seems to do the trick.

Anyway I don’t want to say too much about what happens in the picture but we’ll just say it’s not really a traditional horror picture, except in the old Carnival of Souls what in fuck is going on here type of way. And it’s not really a teen movie although I guess it has a little bit of the Heathers in it. I think it’s a good, original, and slightly less orthodox independent picture to go along with the Ginger Snaps movie which I also recommend. I hope you folks will like this one in my opinion. There is a rabbit also.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, October 28th, 2001 at 9:42 am and is filed under Drama, Mystery, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Donnie Darko”

  1. I saw this a few years after it came out, and enjoyed it. I still do manage to catch a few minutes whenever it’s on TV. I’ve never made the connection with it being a horror film (pretty sure I even picked up the DVD of it in the Horror sectionof the store), it’s way more of a psychological film and a black comedy to me. After I saw it again a few years after the first time I discussed it with someone who agreed with me that it was underrated as a comedy. A few scenes the 2nd time around had me laughing pretty heartily.

    Jake’s performance here is still probably one of the best “break-out” leads I’ve seen. It took me a few times seeing it to realize he really wasn’t crazy or hallucinating all these things, but indeed part of some weird time warp.

    I felt the director’s cut diluted the sort of “indie spirit” of the first film and was more concerned with putting cool effects that wouldn’t necessarily fit in a film like this than the actual storytelling.

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