2 August 2009

Movie Review: S. Darko


S. Darko
2009, 103 mins, R
Director: Chris Fisher
Writer: Nathan Atkins
Cast includes: Daveigh Chase, Jackson Rathbone, Ed Westwick, Briana Evigan, James Lafferty, Elizabeth Berkley
Release Date: 12th May 2009 (DVD)

“S. Darko” is a candidate for the most uncalled for sequel of all time, nobody wanted further exploration of Richard Kelly’s 2001 cult hit “Donnie Darko” and yet the studios in the search for a little green have coughed one up. I don’t consider the 2001 original a masterpiece but it was an interesting and admirably thoughtful motion picture, this is just a superficial and failed attempt to replicate Kelly’s work on a surface level. Directed with no storytelling skill by TV journeyman Chris Fisher, “S. Darko” sinks miserably under the weight of a horrible screenplay and bad acting. “S. Darko” is the sort of atrocious filmmaking that displays nothing in the way of intelligence or artistic integrity.

“S.Darko” is the story of Donnie’s now matured sister Samantha (Daveigh Chase) who along with renegade buddy Cory (Briana Evigan) is heading across America in a bid to escape her past and forge a future. Their car breaks down in a small town and as they stall Cory ingratiates herself via hardcore partying whilst Samantha takes a quiet and more purposeful approach. She becomes friends with several of the locals and takes an interest in a manic war veteran named “Iraq Jack” (James Lafferty) who in four days predicts the end of the world. As the story unwinds “S.Darko” incorporates religion, murder and time travel into its bungled and unsatisfying story, adding in a host of awful supporting characters in the process.

Hatred was always going to be a prerequisite of creating a sequel to “Donnie Darko” but “S. Darko” earns its scorn and malevolent disdain like few other films I’ve seen, a failure from start to finish the film literally has nothing to recommend it. Fisher shoots the sequel slickly but his proficient visuals are simply being cribbed from better movies, making it hard to appreciate his work on any artistic level. Filled full of pointless and half assed imagery, Fisher’s film makes a mockery of the classic symbolism cooked up by the first slice of Darko, modestly impressive cinematography and landscape shooting no compensation for his unoriginal and theft ridden guidance of this project. The diehard Darko lovers will no doubt keep a firm and unloving eye on Fisher in the future, avoiding any further sham infested offerings he might try to plague theatres with. This is the sort of fascinatingly awful picture that kills a career, and thus in an act of mercy Chris Fisher’s time behind the camera might be over as soon as it’s begun.

The performances are rancid, nobody impresses and thus to dissect them at any great length is a waste of time and paragraph space. Chase is a boring lead but she’s well above everybody else who files their acting firmly under the label of “amateur”, the characterizations aren’t great but hiring a selection of talentless idiots to fill them out was never a smart solution. The worst offenders are Ed Westwick and Jackson Rathbone handing in stunningly shambolic performances as a pair of local guys with an interest in the new arrivals. James Lafferty’s war veteran is pretty important to proceedings but the teen star fails completely to create a unique perception of mental deterioration, cliché completely dominating his forgettable performance.

“S. Darko” is working from a heinous screenplay, one that recycles the twists and curious questions of the original film with no point or purpose. Writer Nathan Atkins seems to have forgotten that the success of Kelly’s 2001 effort relied heavily on it’s creative visuals and narrative individuality, neither of which “S. Darko” is able to bring to the table. It’s a monstrously unimaginative enterprise content to steal and pilfer all the original movies conceptual hooks and unique plot mechanics to form a hideous mind-fuck of a film. Granted “Donnie Darko” was loaded with plenty of unforeseen twists and plot diversions but all “S. Darko” seems interested in is confusing the audience and using the time travel formula to patch over its gaping shortcomings. Circa 2001 this newly birthed franchise had something intriguing and compelling to offer, now it’s just a sickly maze of repetitive gargling and onerous pontificating.

I have no desire to donate any more of my time to attacking this despicable film, it climaxes as poorly as the opening segments deserve, never attempting to wrap things up in a cohesive or smart manner. “S, Darko” is supposed to be Samantha’s journey but the character is so badly written that audiences simply won’t care and in a bid to unearth a little quirky cred the screenplay is riddled with dialogue of the most sickeningly weird and referential fashion. The best that fans could realistically have hoped for from “S. Darko” was a follow-up that attempted to add a little extra to the originals legacy and be built on the solid filmmaking staples of good direction and sound acting - instead they’ve been given a movie that commits cinematic larceny at every available turn and is riddled with terrible performances and handled most incapably by it’s director. “S. Darko” is an awful work and one that fully highlights just how bad needless sequels can ultimately be.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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