Daveigh Chase

S. Darko (2009, Chris Fisher)

Terrifying as it might be to say, but S. Darko could actually be worse. It’s an official sequel to Donnie Darko as the producers of that film still had sequel rights, but Daveigh Chase–as this picture’s titular lead–is the only returning cast member. It certainly does not have the involvement from the original’s writer-director.

And S.’s director Fisher isn’t bad. He’s really not. The undoubtedly cheap Utah locations are beautiful. The DV doesn’t look great, but Fisher does have some good composition. And if he were telling the story of Chase and friend Briana Evigan broken down in the middle of nowhere, meeting strange people and cute boys… S. might be okay.

But not with Nathan Atkins’s script. His script plays like a terrible TV movie of the original, complete with story beats. Worst might be how people are constantly traveling through time, just because they wish they can. The other connections to the original flip off that film’s fans. S. is a desperate cash grab with an incompetent script.

Chase is okay in the lead. Evigan’s good about twenty percent of the time. Ed Westwick’s awkward, but quite good most of the time as the guy they meet. Nice supporting turn from John Hawkes too.

Sadly, the rest of the acting’s weak. For starters, Jackson Rathbone is atrocious as Chase’s suitor and James Lafferty’s inept as the town oddball.

S. Darko uses Elizabeth Berkley as stunt casting. Does anything else really need to be said?



Directed by Chris Fisher; screenplay by Nathan Atkins, based on characters created by Richard Kelly; director of photography, Marvin V. Rush; edited by Kent Beyda; music by Ed Harcourt; production designer, Alfred Sole; produced by Adam Fields and Ash R. Shah; released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Starring Daveigh Chase (Samantha), Briana Evigan (Corey), Ed Westwick (Randy), James Lafferty (Iraq Jack), Bret Roberts (Officer O’Dell), Jackson Rathbone (Jeremy), John Hawkes (Phil), Matthew Davis (Pastor John), Walter Platz (Frank), Barbara Tarbuck (Agatha) and Elizabeth Berkley (Trudy).

Donnie Darko (2001, Richard Kelly)

Donnie Darko has one of those discussion begging conclusions. So I’ll skip that aspect entirely and concentrate what director Kelly does so well. There’s a meticulous design to Darko but it’s mostly unimportant; once you get past the MacGuffin, it’s just this story about a teenage schizophrenic’s life coming apart.

Jake Gyllenhaal is outstanding in the lead. Kelly’s script will occasionally give him some really difficult moments, sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he doesn’t. One example is the therapy sessions–it’s unclear if Katharine Ross’s psychiatrist is supposed to be awful at her job–Gyllenhaal has some really rough dialogue at times.

Another odd spot is when Gyllenhaal is hanging out with sidekicks Stuart Stone and Gary Lundy. Kelly writes Gyllenhaal’s character as an unaware genius, so he’ll race past his friends in conversation–one of the beautiful things is how his girlfriend, played by Jena Malone, also isn’t as smart but somehow they pace each other.

But Kelly doesn’t just focus on Gyllenhaal. Mary McDonnell has a lot to do as his mother; she’s fantastic. Holmes Osborne is great as the dad too, but Kelly spreads his attention to odd characters. There’re Beth Grant’s nutty Christian lady (she’s appropriately terrifying) and Drew Barrymore’s driven English high school teacher. Barrymore’s awful. She put up some of the money for the movie, which explains her regrettable presence.

The soundtrack’s occasionally way too precious during montages, but Kelly keeps going until it works. He, Gyllenhaal, McDonnell and Malone make Darko a distinguished success.



Written and directed by Richard Kelly; director of photography, Steven Poster; edited by Sam Bauer and Eric Strand; music by Michael Andrews; production designer, Alec Hammond; produced by Adam Fields and Sean McKittrick; released by Newmarket Films.

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko), Jena Malone (Gretchen Ross), Mary McDonnell (Rose Darko), Holmes Osborne (Eddie Darko), Stuart Stone (Ronald Fisher), Gary Lundy (Sean Smith), Katharine Ross (Dr. Lilian Thurman), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Elizabeth Darko), Daveigh Chase (Sam Darko), Drew Barrymore (Karen Pomeroy), Noah Wyle (Dr. Kenneth Monnitoff), Beth Grant (Kitty Farmer), Alex Greenwald (Seth Devlin), Jolene Purdy (Cherita Chen) and Patrick Swayze (Jim Cunningham).

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