S. Darko


S. Darko Review

Some movies don't deserve a sequel. Not because they weren't successful or have a storyline incapable of carrying a franchise. No, some films are so inherently insular, so completely and utterly self-contained that to try and extrapolate them out over one (or more) additional entries makes little or no sense. Richard Kelly's surprising cult phenomenon Donnie Darko is a good example of such a cinematic solo shot. It remains an original and disturbing vision of suburban ennui and teenage angst wrapped up in a surreal science fiction fable about time travel and the tangential universes it can create. Thanks to its massive success on DVD, a follow-up is now being offered. Sadly, if it accomplishes anything, S. Darko proves that once was definitely enough.

It's been seven years since the events involving Samantha Darko (Daveigh Chase, reprising her role from the original film) and her family, including big brother Donnie, played out. Now 18, she decides to join her best friend Corey (Briana Evigan) on a road trip to California. There, Sam hopes to become a professional dancer. Unfortunately, their car breaks down outside a one-horse town in the middle of Utah. While they wait for replacement parts, the girls meet up with local rebel Randy (Ed Westwick), crazed preacher John Mellit (Matthew Davis), and equally fanatical parishioner Trudy Potter (Elizabeth Berkley). When a meteor hits the tiny burg late one night, it sets into motion a chain of events that has Samantha having horrific visions of the end of the world. It's a fate she shares with a Gulf War veteran (James Lafferty) who is convinced that Armageddon will occur on July 4, 1995.

As callous cash grabs go, S. Darko couldn't be more tedious. It takes everything that Kelly invested in his original and reduces it down to a thick, viscous sludge of clich├ęs, stereotypes, and poorly written dialogue. If insipidness were inspiration, this film would be the most original direct-to-digital masterpiece ever. With the original team behind Donnie's desperate adventures completely absent (only star Chase and a producer remain), it is up to novice filmmaker Chris Fisher to take over the specious speculative fiction reigns. Relying on an ineffectual script from sometimes scribe Nathan Atkins and populating his limited locations with all manner of weird-for-weird's-sake characters, the only thing this director manages to recreate from the original is its innate sense of disorientation. Sadly, he never finds a way to physically or metaphysically reestablish any manner of order.

Granted, we don't come to a sequel of Donnie Darko looking for outright logic, but that doesn't mean we have to be bored to death while we're waiting for the narrative contrivances and coincidences to work themselves out. Kelly managed to create something both ethereal and intriguing with his original, but Fisher can't seem to find his footing most of the time. While it may not be fair to constantly harp back to the source material, S. Darko demands such comparisons. Like so many bad ideas brought about by commercial, not creative, decisions, it's clear that all this movie wants to do is to fool some otherwise clueless consumers into trading their dollars on the "Darko" tag. Change the title, and no one would be clamoring for this artistically bankrupt enterprise.

While it may not be the worst sequel ever conceived (there are far too many to name in this small space) S. Darko definitely does little to lift the reputation of its popular predecessor. For a series of films that deal in portents of evil and omens of bad fortune, nothing could be more foreboding than this outright failure.

S. Darko

Facts and Figures

Genre: Thriller

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Friday 21st August 2009

Box Office Worldwide: $4.1M

Budget: $4M

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Production compaines: Adam Fields Productions


Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5

IMDB: 3.7 / 10

Cast & Crew



Starring: as Samantha Darko, as Trudy Potter, as Corey, as Iraq Jack, as Randy, Bret Roberts as Officer O'Dell, as Jeremy, as Agatha, as Pastor John

Also starring: