Thursday, 18 October 2012

Donnie Darko

"Donnie Darko" (2001, Richard Kelly, Flower Films, Pandora Cinema, Newmarket Films) is a strange and poignant psychological film about a troubled teen boy, fathoming out his disturbing doomsday visions.

Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a boy with problems. He's been known to have imaginary friends and has been in trouble for his behaviour. He doesn't get on with his sister, Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal - I doubt Batman was dating her yet...), and his parents, (Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne), treat him like a weirdo. His youngest sister, Samantha (Daveigh Chase), is more interested in dancing. And his therapist, Dr. Thurman (Katharine Ross) just keeps hypnotising him and giving him more drugs.

Donnie awakens one night to a voice asking him to come outside. He follows the voice out onto the golf course and finds a man wearing a creepy rabbit costume standing there. The man introduces himself as Frank and tells Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds from now.

Donnie then awakens in the morning to find himself still on the golf course green, being looked down at by two golfers. When he gets home, it is to find that his house has been damaged by an inexplicable jet engine falling from a plane. It has destroyed his bedroom, and so his family have to go to a Hotel for a while. No one knows where the rest of the plane is.

Donnie finds himself a girlfriend called Gretchen (Jena Malone) and begins following Frank's orders: flooding his school...etc.. and generally just acting out. He's not sure why Frank is making him do these things, but he's grateful to the strange spectre for saving him from the jet engine.

Frank hints at time travel being a theme of his existence, and so Donnie begins talking on this subject with a teacher, who lends him a book. The book was written by an ex-teacher at the school, and a local crazy-old-lady nicknamed "Grandma Death" (Patience Cleveland). Donnie discovers that much of the content of the book describes sensations he is experiencing through the presence of Frank.

There's a good scene in the cinema, where Gretchen and he are watching "Evil Dead". Gretchen falls asleep and Frank appears, showing his true face. Donnie is confused by Frank's appearance at the time, but it all falls into place later.

The ending to this film is both sad and quizzical. There are two endings, an explanation to what has been going on and then the true ending. I enjoyed this, but found it all to be a bit slow.

The film is quite deep, and yet very odd. Every character is strange or unhinged. Frank reveals some characters for their true colours, which I enjoy, too, but on the whole I found most of the characters to be a bit disturbing, and not in that usual horror movie kind of way. Drew Barrymore's character is quite a strange one, for example. She's both keen to have the kids learn independently, and also is quite slyly a bully. Patrick Swayze's character is supposed to be unnerving, and the revelations made about the character are shocking.

The special effects are ok, and I think the Frank the Bunny costume is quite frankly (pardon the pun), the best thing about the whole film! Creepy!

It's set in the late 80s, and they have done well to capture the era. I'd label this film more as a thriller than a horror, and it's definitely a slow burner. It's not scary, but just engaging in a kind of depressing way.

Drew Barrymore saved this film from relative obscurity, by allowing it a cinematic release through her own Production Company, but it suffered due to timing as it coincided with the 9/11 attacks in America (you can imagine this would put a stopper in the film release... what with some of the content regarding aircraft...). 

It's a real angsty film, going into the mind of a particular teen, but also reflecting on others around him. Not bad at all, but not something you'd watch a lot.

[Image: Flower Films, Pandora Cinema & Newmarket Films]