STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
MSRP: $22.98
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
• Commentary with director Chris Fisher, writer Nathan Atkins, and Cinemtographer Marvin V. Rush
• Deleted Scenes
• The Making of S. Darko
• “Utah Too Much”
S. Darko Trailer

The Pitch

“Here’s $10 million, a bag of peyote, and a copy of A Brief History of Time. Just make it better than Southland Tales, okay guys? My ass is bleeding just thinking about that thing.”

The Humans

Directed by: C. Fisher

Acted by: D. Chase, B. Evigan, J. Lafferty, E. Westwick, J. Rathbone, and E. Berkeley.

The Nutshell

10 years after Donnie’s death, Samantha Darko is on a roadtrip with her friend Corey to escape the broken home her brother left behind only to find herself entangled in the same temporal web that ensnared him.

Even after the discontinuation following the mauling deaths of 31 toddlers, Critter-On-A-Stick remained a popular toy among midwestern youth.

The Lowdown

Richard Kelly is the Mars Volta of film. His M/O seems to be if you throw enough your influences in a bag, scramble it up enough, and take your sweet time getting to your goddamned point, you’ll get something completely original and fascinating, possibly even stumbling onto brilliance. The fact that The Mars Volta, like Kelly, struck gold once, and spent the next three projects jerking off trying to achieve the same results isn’t so much relative to S. Darko as the fact that if Donnie Darko is Richard Kelly’s De-Loused In The Comatorium, S. Darko is Paramore releasing a tribute to De-Loused in The Comatorium. Sure, the basics are there, and the female influence definitely brings a different, intriguing flavor to the mix, but when it comes down to it, it’s an hour and a half of people reaching far beyond their abilities to ape a project where even the creators barely had a grasp on they were doing.

That is to say, it’s a shitpile.

“So, um….why are you wearing that stupid girl s–“
“Oh, fuck you if you finish that sentence.”

We catch up to Donnie’s baby sister Samantha at the ripe old age of 17, while she’s on her way home from a cross-country roadtrip with her friend Corey (Briana Evigan, who I guess I would’ve heard of if I’d seen Step Up 2, and was also stricken with a degenerative brain disease of some sort),  Their car ends up breaking down in a backwater desert burg called Conejo Springs (one of the film’s numerous, annoying rabbit references) just in time for a stray meteor to come screaming out of the sky to fuck up the space-time continuum. After said meteor hits, a new countdown starts: The world will end in 4 days, and it’s up to the new Living Receiver to put things where they should be before time’s up.

From there, if you’ve seen the first film, you’ve seen this, only with a few select trade-offs. Swap Roberta Sparrow for a crazed post-traumatic war vet. Swap Patrick Swayze’s creepy pedophile self-help guru for a creepy pedophile pseudo-Scientologist. Swap Beth Grant’s commitment to Sparkle Motion with a delusional Jesus freak (who, actually, has the best lines in the movie, talking about how drugs and anus sex ruined Conejo Springs). Swap Jena Malone with a blank-staring Hollister store mannequin. Swap Frank the Bunny for an undead Daveigh Chase. Swap Donnie’s sullen, existential teen angst for…..Samantha’s sullen, existential teen angst, and voila. Same as it ever was. I shit you not when I tell you the structure and plot hit every single one of the beats from Donnie Darko, without much deviation beyond the fact that there’s twice the estrogen, which changes the tone of the darkness somewhat, but it does nothing to make the film engaging, let alone original.

He pulled the car over and sighed. Kenny and Jenny Realdoll’s journey to the fabled Uncanny Valley ended when they realized, with no small measure of relief, that they’d been there all along.

Actually, the more aggravating part is that the film does start down an interesting path early on. For a shiny second, you’re convinced they might actually have the balls to let their main character get killed, and actually stay dead, shifting the responsibility of carrying the film to Corey, and giving her a mystery to unravel as to why Iraq Jack is seeing Samantha at all. It would’ve at least given the film some small measure of tension while going through the motions. But, almost as if some sort of badass direct-to-DVD gestapo got wind of the fact that creativity might take place, the film puts a stop to this plot twist shenanigans ten minutes later, and uses the time-travel as a means to kick Corey to the curb, bring Samantha back to life, and put the film back on the straight, narrow and boring road.

And right there is the word that encapsulates S. Darko‘s failure. As easy as it is to tear Richard Kelly a new one about his last few ventures as director and screenwriter, his failures are BIG failures, borne of a sort of a creative Tourettes, the kind that garners a mild, grudging respect regardless of the end result based solely on the fact that he chased his wild imagination right over the edge. All S. Darko ever reaches for or attains is imitation and mediocrity, and it’s far too paralyzed by the freedoms granted by the first film to take chances. The end result is just inert, brainless material, which is oddly a worse crime than if the movie spontaneously became a time-traveling Night of the Lepus sequel.

Life Tip #4,798: Claiming to be the fifth Beatle may get you laid. Claiming to be the tenth member of Slipknot will get you registered as a sex offender.

The Package

The commentary with Chris Fisher, Nathan Atkins, and Marvin Rush is dry, mechanical, but informative enough. Probably could’ve stopped it 5 minutes in when Atkins lets loose that, unsurprisingly, this was a writer’s strike film, but what becomes clear through the course of the commentary is, aside from the cinematography (which, I should admit, is one of two positives in the film’s favor, along with the score), how much of an amateur production this was, with Atkins and Fisher coming off like lucky film school students than director of a mid-level cult sequel.

The deleted scenes bring nothing to the table. The making of pretty much confirms that no one involved with this understood the first film, and it says something that the featurette starts with a series of people saying they didn’t really know why they were making a sequel. “Utah Too Much” is a song written by John Hawkes (who I guess I’ll hear of when I finally pull my head out of my ass and watch Deadwood) while on location, used as the score to a sort of strange behind-the-scenes montage. There’s a trailer for the film, and other Fox gems. Nothing to write home about.

3 out of 10