S. Darko is sort of the cinematic equivalent of a red-headed stepchild, the direct-to-video sequel to the 2001 cult film Donnie Darko, writer/director Richard Kelly’s visionary tale of high school, time travel, and alternate universes. Kelly had nothing to do with this belated follow-up to a film which really didn’t set itself up for a sequel in any way, shape, or form.
Since Donnie got obliterated by a falling jet engine at the end of that film, the sequel focuses on his little sister Samantha, played by Daveigh Chase, reprising her role from the original film. Chase is probably best known for playing Rhonda on “Big Love” and also voiced Lilo in Lilo & Stich. She certainly has grown up since her days in Sparkle Motion. She is a fine young actress, but can’t do much with lines like “Remember the future…”
The film is set in 1995, seven years after Donnie’s death. The plot, such as it is, involves Samantha and her friend Corey going on a road trip to escape the boredom of their lives, only to get stuck in a one-horse town in the Utah desert. There they encounter sly hipster Randy, played by Ed Westwick (Chuck on “Gossip Girl”,) and shy bookworm Jeremy, played by Jackson Rathbone of Twilight fame. Rathbone’s performance, which ranges from winningly boyish to manically aggressive, is a highlight of the film, as is John Hawkes’s portrayal of a creepy motel manager. Hawkes is always good, whether he's playing Starr in "Deadwood," Kenny's brother in "Eastbound and Down," or the convenience store clerk in From Dusk Till Dawn. There’s also a guy named Iraq Jack, played in full-on loony mode by James Lafferty, and a strange, scar-faced woman played by Elizabeth Berkley (Showgirls, “Saved by the Bell”).
Director Chris Fisher and screenwriter Nathan Atkins do get some of the details right, borrowing liberally from the source material without ultimately adding much to the mythology. Hardcore fans of the original will no doubt find fault with S. Darko’s deviations from the formula, while those who haven’t seen the original will find themselves scratching their heads, and wondering just what the hell is going on.