Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko

[Published November 28th, 2001, Show Business Weekly]

Is it possible to take the horror film seriously? Amongst most forms of storytelling this is one of the least respected genres, and it’s not surprising considering a lot of the recent American output. Having reached a nadir with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, where the horrific elements of those great books’ magical world were repackaged into a flat, less than inspiring thrill ride (a “Hollywood Horror” if you will), it’s great to come across something like The Devil’s Backbone, which shows how those elements familiar to horror films can be used to great and pointed effect.

Likewise to come across a film like Donnie Darko, which is, unfortunately, dying quickly at two Manhattan theaters. Mixing horror, science fiction, and the teenage coming-of-age story, first time director Richard Kelly has created a wondrous mess of a film: it manages to pack an emotional wallop while concurrently examining political cynicism, family, social ritual, and Smurfs mythology. Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Noah Wyle, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell and Katharine Ross all work towards a finely etched portrait of late 80s suburban life. And Kelly gives one of that era’s superstars, Patrick Swayze, a brilliant self-referential role. Get thyself to the theater reader!