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Donnie Darko

USA 2001
produced by
Adam Fields, Nancy Juvonen, Sean McKittrick, Christopher Ball (executive), Drew Barrymore (executive), Casey La Scala (executive), Hunt Lowry (executive), Aaron Ryder (executive), William Tyrer (executive) for Flower Films, Gaylord Films, Newmarket Films, Pandora Cinema
directed by Richard Kelly
starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Katherine Ross, Patrick Swayze, Holmes Osborne, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daveigh Chase, Mary McDonnell, James Duval, Noah Wyle, Patience Cleveland, Drew Barrymore
written by Richard Kelly, music by Michael Andrews, special effects by Amalgamated Pixels, The Effects Group

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Teenage boy Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) lives with his family - mom (Mary McDonnell), dad (Holmes Osborne) and 2 sisters (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daveigh Chase) - in typical smalltown America. And as if that wasn't already bad enough, he's on medication and is in therapy (with doc Katherine Ross) because his emotional problems (which once caused him to burn down a house) cause him to have visions of a giant rabbit called Frank that tells him the world is going to end soon, to sleepwalk and constantly wake up outside, and they cause small disasters (an airplane engine crashing into his family's house while he's out, his school being flooded) happening around him. Soon it seems clear to Donnie that time travel is the key to all of this.

Actually a local old and absent-minded woman called Grandma Death (Patience Cleveland) has written about it all when she was younger and even described the wormholes Donnie sees emerging out of everybody like some liquid columns. Unfortunately, besides his girlfriend Gretchen (Jena Malone), who with her mom is on flight from her abusive stepfather, noone believes him - everyone just thinks only more medication could be the solution to his problems, or even phony self help guru James Cunningham (Patrick Swayze). 

But then Donnie, at Frank's request, burns down Cunningham's house, and among the rubble evidence of that man's involvement in a child porn ring is found and he is arrested. Despite this small success for Donnie though, the end of the world is still approaching - rapidly. And at his Halloween party, only 6 hours away from the end of the world, Donnie thinks he has finally put together all the pieces of the puzzle and that Grandma Death does indeed hold the key to it all - but when he and Gretchen arrive at her house, they are violently attacked, and finally Gretchen is run over by a car, a car driven by Frank (James Duval), who turns out to be not an imaginary rabbit creature after all but a normal teen in a Halloween outfit. In anger, Donnie shoots Frank, then drives off with Gretchen's corpse to await the end of the world, and when it is here to dive into one of the wormholes, "... to a place much better" - as Gretchen has once put it. 

But how much better can that place be (as a matter of fact, how can you tell)? He goes back in time to the point when the airplane engine hit his house, only this time he is in the house ... and dies.


A film that does somewhat fall apart: Part schmaltzy coming of age drama à la Dead Poets' Society (though it is not quite as awful as that movie), part inventive sci-fi-horror drama, part art movie, part unimaginative David-Lynch-by-the-numbers. And these parts do not necessarily go well together, as a matter of fact, little effort is done to really blend them with one another, which is reflected in the editing which ever so often fades out of one scene only to fade into another that has no connection to the previous one altogether. Plus, many a character we could have done without - like Drew Barrymore's liberal English teacher, who in the end loses against the conservative school system is nothing more than a weak caricature that doesn't make sense for the main narrative as such (actually it seems to have been put in to give the movie's name executive producer something to do), or Donnie's parents, who, the longer the movie runs, seem to become less and less fleshed out. Also, Jake Gyllenhaal seems to be a competent actor, but he totally lacks the charisma a central character of such a movie would badly need. 

To be honest, the movie might not be too bad compared to the rubbish Hollywood used to put out at its time - but considering Hollywood's usual horrible output from the early 2000's, that's not saying much.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


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written by
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out now on DVD