Tuesday, August 10, 2010

S. Darko

Posted as part of Operation 101010
Category: impulse buys / In category: 5 of 10 / Overall: 52 of 100

Why buy?

It was in a sale so damn cheap it was cheaper than the price of a rental.


To be honest, morbid curiosity.

The expectation

A derivative and singularly unimpressive sequel. A needless and misconceived piece of work. But something surely not as bad as the consensus of critical opinion would have us believe – surely not!

The actuality

Where do I start?

Where the hell do I start?

Title’s as good a place as any, I guess. ‘S. Darko’. Why in holy hell call it ‘S. Darko’? Yes, it’s a sequel to ‘Donnie Darko’ but without the title character given what happens at the end of the first movie. A sequel that focuses on his sister. Samantha. Or Sam as she calls herself. Therefore, you have the options of ‘Samantha Darko’ or ‘Sam Darko’ by way of a title. Fuck, even ‘Sammi’, ‘Sammikins’ or ‘Sam-a-ram-a-ding-dong Darko’ is better than ‘S. Darko’. Who uses an initial in a movie title?

Moving on. Let’s consider the, ahem, plot. A title scroll in a horrible font informs us that it’s been seven years since Donnie Darko rode the night train to the big adios (I’m paraphrasing here). His little sis (Daveigh Chase) is drifting, directionless, plagued by bad dreams. On a cross-America trip with white-trash BFF Corey (Briana Evigan), Samantha finds herself stranded in a small town when their car breaks down and they’re offered a lift by town bad boy and drunkard Randy (Ed Westwick). Corey and Randy hit it off. Samantha catches the eye of über-geek Jeremy (Jackson Rathbone). The girls fetch up at a motel owned by a UFO obsessive. Samantha’s sleepwalking brings her into contact with good-ole-boy cop Officer O’Dell (Bret Roberts) who warns her that the town is being stalked by a pervert responsible for the disappearance of two children. Number one suspect is crazy-talking vagrant and former US infantryman “Iraq Jack” (James Lafferty). Iraq Jack is warned by a ghostly version of Samantha that the world is about to end.

Anyone picking up on a ‘Twin Peaks’ vibe yet? Director Chris Fisher’s aesthetic of small town weird is trés David Lynch, right down to images like these:

In fact, ‘S. Darko’ often feels like a David Lynch film with production design by Alejandro Jodorowsky from an original script by some talentless hack straight off the latest Stephanie Meyer adaptation and casting by whoever picks the pretty young things for ‘One Tree Hill’ and ‘Gossip Girl’ (I doubt it’s coincidence that most of the cast hail from these kind of shows). It’s obvious Chris Fisher wanted to take a mind-blowing and consciousness-altering trip through Weirdsville USA; unfortunately he finds himself as stalled and lacking in momentum as his heroines, stuck somewhere between Whatthefucksville and Whogivesafucktown.

It’s not that ‘S. Darko’ fails by dint of being incomprehensible, illogical and often jaw-droppingly random. Quite the contrary: its mishmash of disconnected scenes, impenetrable characters and meaningless juxtapositions occasionally fuse into a dementedly glorious trainwreck of a movie that’s perversely magnificent to behold. ‘S. Darko’ boasts intermittent swathes of running time so stupendously bad it comes close to inspiring the same kind of delirious oh-fuck-this-is-so-awful-I’m-loving-it response usually reserved for the poetry of William McGonigall or novelty singles like ‘Mambo No. 5’.

No, what drives a stake through the heart of the film, hangs garlic around its neck, shoves a crucifix where the sun don’t shine then nails the coffin lid down is that it keeps fucking nicking bits from the original! Slo-mo/speeded-up segues during a party sequence – check! Camera slowly rolling through a 90º angle as a character leaps into frame – check! Watery, umbilical-like tendrils leading somnolent characters towards their destiny – check! A devout religious character with a dark secret – check! A freaky dude in a rabbit mask – check! A car accident at a pivotal moment in the movie – check! A heroic act of self-sacrifice for the betterment of etc etc etc – check! A second heroic act of self-sacrifice for the betterment of etc etc etc just in case we didn’t get the point first time round – check! A flashback to Sparkle Motion, for fuck’s sake – check! Iraq Jack as the grandson of Roberta (Grandma Death) Sparrow – oh, yeah, you’d better believe it!

I guess the intent was to conjure the pervasive and enigmatic atmosphere of Richard Kelly’s cult classic. And herein lies the flaw. ‘Donnie Darko’ works – and works beautifully – because of its internal logic, flawless structure and emotional investment in its characters. Fisher’s preening sequel doesn’t even try for such things.

Good buy/bad buy?

Everything adds up to bad buy, but seeing as it cost me so little I’m kind of glad I did buy it. For one thing, I fully intend to lend this movie to everyone who will even consider sliding it into their DVD player, purely to gauge just how aghast their reaction is.

Also, I have this crazy scheme of one day getting totally wrecked and using ‘S. Darko’ to kick start a head-fuck triple bill which will also take in ‘Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me’ and ‘El Topo’. Because, you know, it’s important to have ambitions.


Simon said...

You make it sound kind of glorious. It's on Netlifx, y'know.

Neil Fulwood said...

It is kind of magnificent, but in grotesquely misconceived way. By all means see it, but don't say I didn't warn you!

Elwood Jones said...

It's a special kind of painful viewing experience which I havn't found since watching "Wrecking Crew" which I'm sure if watched back to back with this film, would no doubt truly drive me into some kind of catatonic state.

Aaron said...

You're review is fucking awesome, Neil. It cracked me up! Good point about the parallels, visually, with TWIN PEAKS. I have only seen this movie once and noticed that some of the shots and visuals looked familiar, but couldn't exactly remember where. I agree with your review almost completely. I agree that it's a bad movie, and anyone who thinks that this is a legitimately good movie has obviously never seen a lot of GOOD movies. But at the same time, I really really liked it when I saw it. It's total eye candy and I think it's gorgeous, visually. I also love the music in the film, especially the Cocteau Twins song at the end. I also really liked Daveigh Chase. She's legal now, so I don't feel bad saying that she's cute. Briana Evigan's character was a cunt. The rockabilly, James Dean-looking guy was so fucking stereotypical and corny that it became funny.

Anyway, I saw this as a rental back when it first came out. I bought it for five dollars a couple of months ago and totally forgot I even had it until now, so thanks for reminding me! I will watch this tomorrow and see how it holds up! :)

Bryce Wilson said...

Oh man, you're a braver man then I.

Still thanks to you're review we can confidently say that one good thing came out of S.(amikins) Darko

Neil Fulwood said...

Elwood - it's painful but it's also weirdly compelling. Some movies you watch and wonder if they're going to get any better; with 'S. Darko', it's more a case of how much worse.

Aaron - I think we're on the same page as regards Daveigh Chase. I certainly would (if it weren't for the fact that Mrs F would have my balls in a rat trap, that is!) Oh man, Briana Evigan had me in stitches - the way that she continually exposes six inches of midriff and that's supposed to make her a bad girl; and the way every line of dialogue she has is delivered in that 40-a-day rasp. Hilarious!

Bryce - braver, or more foolhardy. I'm still not sure which myself. Thanks for the compliment, though.

Keith said...

I had never even heard of this one. Thanks for sharing with us.

Neil Fulwood said...

Keith - I'd be failing in my duty if I tried to make out you'd missed an underrated gem, but 'S. Darko' does offer a certain guilty pleasure - plus, as Aaron mentioned, it's not without its fair share of eye candy.

Aaron said...

So I just watched it again yesterday to see if it would hold up and pass the test, and I only got about half way through it before I turned it off. I still like the visuals in it, but it was SO fucking uninteresting this time around since I already knew what was gonna happen. I also forgot how fucking long the movie is! Good thing I only spent five dollars on it!

Neil Fulwood said...

Yeah, the look of the movie is the best thing about it. I'll give it a second viewing at some point, but like I said in the review I intend to be stoned at the time!

VoiceOfReason said...

I watched this on the basis it was going to be toe curlingly bad and was pleasantly surprised. If you ignore the train wreck plot this is a really cool film.

I have this habit of judging a film by its choice of title font, and boy what a shocker it in this film.

I love the twin peaks vibe, the long edits, the beautiful visuals, the very pretty chase and the great sound track. As a feast for the senses and for putting you in that "other" place like twin peaks does, rather than a coherent film, it has a lot to offer.

Things like the random pool pushing scene where the mood changes in an instant and you are transported to a tranquil place, a bubble leaves chases face and a note in the music struck, edited perfectly. I've seen way higher budget "better" films that miss out on gorgeous little details like that.

The ending was quite fab in its own way. I like the last look Evigan gave, it was tinged with genuine pain.

It's a mess, but it's a delicious mess.