Diehard fans have clamored loud and long about the sacrilege of S. Darko, the direct-to-video follow-up of the 1998 cult favorite Donnie Darko that features no involvement from the original’s creator Richard Kelly, who himself hasn’t done much worthwhile since. Did Donnie Darko need a sequel? Probably not, but I’m no Darko fanatic that thinks his precious masterpiece of a film is too holy to be tampered with, so I approached this one with an open mind. It’s not a great sign that the original director isn’t involved or that it’s direct-to-video, but lest people forget, the original theatrical release of Donnie Darko was so paltry, its widest release at only 58 theaters, it was barely a step above that status itself.
Alas, S. Darko fails in nearly every way that Donnie Darko succeeded – it’s a nearly comatose teen drama that plods along excruciatingly slowly, pauses along the way to toss in familiar bits from the first film – fractured time sequences, manipulated dead, alternate universes and a Frank the Bunny head that seems to serve no other purpose than hearkening back to the iconic image of the original. Fans will mostly hate it for its supposed betrayal, and non-fans are going to be totally unenthused by the token references to the first film, leaving S. Darko a curious enterprise that probably won’t be the cult cash cow producers might have hoped for.
The S of the title is Samantha Darko, younger sister to Donnie. Daveigh Chase reprises her role from Donnie Darko, but she’s such a passive character, it’s hard to figure out why she was placed at the center of this film, other than the fact that she’s the only real connection to the first. Sam and her friend Corey (Briana Evigan) are taking a cross-country road trip to California when car troubles strand them in a podunk Utah town.
They settle in to life there, spending their time with brooding Randy (Ed Westwick), and hearing all about the local crazy, Iraq Jack (James Lafferty), who’s rumored to have a penchant for abducting little boys. Soon, a meteorite crashes in the area, creating a time fracture that sets off a series of events not too different from the ones in Donnie – the world’s ending, someone has to make a sacrifice to save the world, etc. Thing is, these plot elements don’t pay off in a nearly as satisfying way as in the original, and where Donnie felt like a film with complex plot elements that took several viewings to understand, this one just feels full of holes.