Let’s see here, a psychological thriller/drama film starring young Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, and Seth Rogen. Oh, and a creepy ass mystery character in a scary bunny suit. Yup, that sounds like the makings of a cult classic for sure. Today we’re taking a look at Arrow’s release of Donnie Darko.
As much as I hate to do so, I think it is hard to talk about Donnie Darko without getting into spoiler territory, so if you haven’t seen this film, here’s the absolute basics to help you decide. Donnie Darko is a troubled teen going through some depression issues and is struggling to get by. His medications are starting to cause hallucinations and he believes he might be going through a time slip type situation — at least that’s what the man in the bunny suit seems to suggest. If this sounds intriguing to you, I definitely recommend watching this film and skipping this review. But if you want to know a bit more, continue on with me here.
So a quick read of the synopsis gives you a very general idea of what this movie is about. However, I should also mention that there are two cuts of this film included in the set, the theatrical cut and a director’s cut. Based entirely on anecdotal observation, it seems that people generally like the version of the film that they watch first. The main difference between the two is that the director’s cut sort of guides you along what is happening a bit more, making the ending less of a surprise, but still equally as much of a mind fuck. But that might be skipping ahead too much.
For the most part this film takes place over a period of time between a traumatic accident involving a jet engine crashing into the Darko household and the end of the world. Seems pretty laid back and chill right? No way. Darko’s hallucinations and his discovery of a book written by a local mad woman both point him to believe that the world has mere days left and that he might be the key to everything that is going on around him. This leads hims onto a destructive path of carelessness and borderline insanity, where his actions scale from the trivial to the devastating.
The ending itself will hit you like a brick and leave you wondering just what the hell happened. I can definitely see some people unhappy about this, but to me it was a smart and haunting statement. I won’t give away this plot point, but I will say that it is fairly unique and definitely locks this film into the realm of cult classic. You owe it to yourself to watch this film.
For this release, Arrow had both cuts of the film scanned from the original 35mm negatives. These 4k scans were then restored, and the result in a great looking Blu-ray release. When compared to the previously releases, the differences might not always be night and day, but darker blacks and more accurate color representation are definitely noticeable. This is without a doubt the best looking release of Donnie Darko to date.
Similarly, the audio has been given the attention to detail that we expect from Arrow. Both cuts of the film have their own 5.1 channel tracks, which sound nearly identical. Both tracks sound equally good, with decent surround and clean dialog.
- Deus Ex Machina – The Philosophy of Donnie Darko
- The Goodbye Place
- Deleted and Extended scenes
- Audio commentaries – three of them, one with Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaall, one with Richard Kelly along with several members of the cast, and a final one with Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith.
- Donnie Darko Production Diary
- Archive Interviews – several cast members are represented
- They Made Me Do It
- They Made Me Do It II
- #1 Fan: A Darkomentary
- Storyboard Comparisons
- B Roll Footage
- Cunning Visions Infomercials
- Music Video – Tears for Fears “Mad World”
- Image Gallery
- Director’s Cut Trailer
- TV Spots
As Arrow is well known to do, they have completely loaded up this Limited Edition set with a diverse offering of special features. Fans will be absolutely enthralled with what is on offering here, and first time viewers will find a bit more insight into what they’ve just seen. Coupled with the packaging, this is exactly what Blu-ray collectors want from a distributor, and I’m very pleased that Arrow continues to give this much attention to detail with their releases.
For this limited release, Arrow has opted to package this set in a really good looking slip box that has two digipacks inside. Each houses it’s own cut of the film, with one DVD and one Blu-ray inside, as well as a few other goodies (a poster and some postcards inside a nice looking envelope). Also included is a hardcover book with several essays on the film, which includes several pictures and more information on the transfers. As you can see in the images, this is quite likely one of the best Blu-ray releases out there. Way to go Arrow.
Not only is this film a classic for all the right reasons, it has gotten one of the best packages that we’ve seen on the market. Couple that with the great transfer and restoration and fans have every reason to go crazy for this one. Anyone who hasn’t seen this film really should give it a shot, and collector’s should absolutely pick this one up, even as a blind buy.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.