On the anniversary of Richard Kelly’s unparalleled masterpiece, “Donnie Darko” is given a wonderful treatment a la Arrow Video. The set features not only the theatrical cut, but the extended director’s cut, as well as a plethora of special features and unique collectibles for fans of the universe he’s created. Except for “S. Darko” (Kelly has publicly denounced that alleged “sequel” to his film). That said, “Donnie Darko” from Arrow depends on your enjoyment of the movie, since the original film was given a nifty release years ago, as well as the Director’s Cut, but both cuts differ vastly in quality and pacing. I’ve expressed my love for “Donnie Darko” in the past, as it’s a stunning and gripping labyrinth of mystery that combines horror, fantasy, surrealism, and existentialism in a tale about parallel universes and fate.
Jake Gyllenhaal is Donnie, a young man with a mental illness who believes to see a lot more in reality than others do. After surviving a freak accident involving a plane engine that crashes in to his room, Donnie begins seeing odd supernatural anomalies, including weird strobes leading him down various paths, and an entity that resembles a deformed rabbit, who insists in taunting Donnie when he’s at peace. He also insists that the world is going to end in 28 days 06 hours 42 minutes and 12 seconds. Being driven slowly mad, Donnie struggles with his town’s unusual herd mentality involving dominant religious PTA, and a new self help guru that takes the school by storm. “Donnie Darko” is a very thought provoking and engrossing gem that crosses many genres and can be interpreted in man ways. To this day it’s one of Kelly’s best cinematic works.
The New Limited Edition Box Set comes with both cuts, and sadly the theatrical cut works more in favor of the film’s aesthetic and mood. “The Director’s Cut” pretty much holds our hands through every single plot element and plot twist by extending scenes. Not to mention Kelly includes chapter titles with the beginning of new acts, all of which explain that intent behind the unfolding of events, rather than allowing the audience to work to understand the movie itself. If I had to suggest a definitive cut to watch, it’s the Theatrical Cut, which was the original version we saw everywhere. The original cut is well paced, garners some excellent editing, and allows the audience to decrypt the message Kelly has injected in every seam of the film. Usually Director’s Cuts work in favor of a movie, but this time you’re much better off watching the intended version.
The Box Set comes with a four disc combo, with two digipacks, a 94 page hardcover book with five in depth essays, and a foreword by Jake Gyllenhaal. There’s also an envelope addressed to Roberta Sparrow with seven postcards, all of which can be assembled to form a poster, and a poster of the film’s new art. On Disc One including the “Theatrical Version,” there’s an audio commentary by Writer/director Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal, and an audio commentary with Writer/Director Kelly, Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katherine Ross, James Duval, and producer Sean McKittrick.
“Deus ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko” is an in depth eighty five minute look at the themes and overtones of the movie. As well, there’s the nine minute “The Goodbye Place,” thirty two minutes of Deleted Scenes, and the original trailer. For Disc Two with the “Director’s Cut,” there’s an audio commentary with Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith. There’s the five minute “They Made Me Do It,” the thirty minute “They Made Me Do It Too,” and the thirteen minute “#1 Fan: A Darkomentary.” There’s the nearly hour long production diaries, fourteen minute vintage interviews with the cast and crew, five minutes of raw B Roll footage, the Cunning Visuals Infomercials, and an 8 minute storyboard comparison. Finally, there’s a music video, a still gallery, and trailers for the Director’s Cut, and five TV spots for “Donnie Darko.”