Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary [Blu-Ray Combo]

Like post-Donnie Darko Richard Kelly, this 10th Anniversary set, combining all previous releases, is virtually pointless. New fans and non-collectors can feel free to buy it, but there’s nothing new here for anybody who's already bludgeoned themselves with excessive Darko theories and their explanations, as I have. The quality of the set isn’t hampered by this, but it pisses me off nonetheless. And Josh has already eloquently said everything about this movie that I want to say here. Now 10 years old, Donnie Darko reminds me of myself. Upon first viewing, it's challenging, complex, and mysterious. After being around it a few years, though, you realize it's just elaborately thought-out bullshit. (Maybe that's just the Director's Cut.) I liked this movie in a way that I never liked myself. It seemed brilliant, and I thought Kelly was going to go Kubrick on Hollywood. But then I matured (unnoticeably), whereas Darko is stuck in that time of my life when I imbibed on mind-altering things and was an emotional train wreck. And Richard Kelly is only like Kubrick in that he is dead now; theatrically, I mean.

In 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds, young Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) must cope with Republican parents Eddie (Holmes Osborne) and Rose (Mary McDonnell), rebel sister Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and the potential end of the Universe as we know it. By simply being a regular teenager, one full of violent ambition and hyper-sexual impulses, Donnie poignantly connects the lives of many, conquering evil and finding his personal peace of self along the way. These events may or may not all be in his head, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Donnie is guided, both in daydreams and sleepwalking episodes, by a mechanically voiced, bunny-suited creature named Frank, who cryptically instigates acts of vandalism that set into motion the order of events needed for existence to continue. Or something. Quasi-logical explanations are awkwardly spread throughout the Director’s Cut, for those who despise anything abstract. Feel free to obsess over Darko’s sci-fi elements, because they’re interesting, but recognize them as a construct for a more traditional story to inhabit.

For many people, the teenage years are the most formidable, and those of us who grew up as “intellectual outsiders” will feel twinges of familiar nostalgia in moments when apocalyptic sci-fi is absent. Donnie has the hots for like-minded Gretchen (Jena Malone), relates with the cool teachers Monitoff (Noah Wyle) and Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore), and has bully problems from Seth (Alex Greenwald) and Ricky (Seth Rogen). He’s interested in an older woman, Grandma Death (Patience Cleveland), albeit not for sexual reasons. Donnie even hates Patrick Swayze, or at least his pedophilic character. And he sees wormholes! Totally relatable.

Within the “atmospheric psychological drama” genre, Darko remains a quirky, stylistic triumph of unconventional storytelling. As an indirect pre-cursor to the films The Box and S. Darko, it remains mostly forgiven. But as a repetitive Blu-ray released just to milk people’s wallets, it should gather dust on shelves everywhere. If this point hasn't been made clear enough, this is just a cobbled-together set consisting of the Blu-ray, two DVDs, and a digital copy. No new extras, and nothing aside from the films have been upgraded to hi-def. The DVDs are actually recycled from the previous releases. And the digital copy is made out of dead rabbits. (Or not.) Classy.

Each version of the movie has a commentary track on it. The theatrical track has Kelly by himself, telling interesting stories about the movie while sounding just baffled enough by his own genius. The Director’s Cut tries to justify this by pairing Kelly with Kevin Smith, a Darko fanboy, to discuss the film’s mythology and subtext. So long as you don’t detest the film already, these are quite informative capsules of Kelly’s motivations for every possible aspect of Darko’s existence.

Because hearing about it isn’t enough, the hour-long “Production Diary” gives a behind-the-scenes look at the filming process, from principal photography to shooting the actual scenes, all with optional commentary by director of photography Steven Poster. Everybody looks so young…and hopeful. Most interesting is the breakdown of the seemingly single-shot introductory montage set to Tears for Fears.

“They Made Me Do It: The Cult of Donnie Darko” is a half-hour-long, independently made documentary about how large a following the film has gathered in Britain. Fans, magazine editors, an artist, and a critic all offer their reasoning and insight as to why the film affects such a large number of people. Phone conversations with Kelly, and a guy in a bunny suit posing all over the place, are both utilized. In “#1 Fan: A Darkomentary” Darryl Donaldson proves why he won the website’s contest to be able to claim this apex of fandom. It’s an amusing 13 minutes of Donaldson acting out bits of the movie, meeting up with other fans, and making actor James Duval uncomfortable, culminating in a Darko Q&A appearance.

On to more generic things. A “Storyboard to Screen” feature will take eight minutes of your life, if you’re into that sort of thing. Twenty deleted scenes, all with optional commentary, are from the theatrical cut, so some of them made it into the revised version. They run the gamut from important to boring. Read “The Philosophy of Time Travel” without having it break up scenes in the Director’s Cut, and watch the entire “Cunning Visions” videos that show you the difference between Fear and Love. The “Mad World” video from Gary Jules is available. There are trailers, film art, website designs, cast & crew info, as well as the soundtrack’s liner notes. Hot damn.

Buy it if you’ve never bought it before, and look at it from afar in stores if you have. Donnie Darko doesn’t change. We do.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.