Will a new 4K restoration make Richard Kelly’s mind-bending story any clearler?
Not since The Rocky Horror Picture Show can we remember coming across a film as polarising as writer-director Richard Kelly's 2001 debut. A fever dream comprised of teen drama, time paradoxes, superheroes, '80s nostalgia, predestination and a man-sized rabbit, Donnie Darko offers no critical middle-ground; you either embrace its dreamlike structure and apocalyptic philosophising or you don't. In which case you'll and end up observing it all in a state of utter bemusement.
The key difference stems from how you approach the film. Treat it like a puzzle to be solved and you'll merely become frustrated by plot-holes and lapses in logic. But if you stop trying to make sense of it all (just look at the mess Kelly himself gets into with his over-explanatory 'Director's Cut', also featured here alongside the original theatrical release) and focus on the characters instead, you'll be carried along by the film's compelling emotional beats.
Picture: Shot entirely on 800 ASA 35mm stock, Donnie Darko isn't the most visually spectacular film you'll ever see, althoughfor this release Arrow has undertaken an exclusive new 4K restoration with input from both Kelly and his cinematographer. More faithful colour grading than previous home releases still doesn't alter the film's somewhat muted aesthetic, but there's a pleasing uptick in sharpness and clarity to the 2.35:1 imagery.
Picture rating: 4/5
Audio: The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mixes for both cuts are primarily dialogue-driven, but still make frequent, well-judged use of the surrounds for atmospheric effect. However, the best feature remains the music – be it the classic tunes by Echo & the Bunnymen, INXS and Duran Duran or Michael Andrews' menacing atonal score.
Audio rating: 4/5
Extras: As well as the two versions of the film, this two-disc set is also loaded with commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, trailers and galleries. Our favourites are an 85-minute retrospective Making of… documentary and Kelly's intriguing 1996 short film The Goodbye Place. This limited edition also includes a 92-page book in its deluxe packaging, while the 'regular' Blu-ray comes with a cut-down 20-page version.
Extras rating: 5/5
We say: Undoubtedly the definitive Blu-ray package for this ‘cultiest’ of modern cult movies.
Donnie Darko: Limited Edition, Arrow Video, Region B BD & R2 DVD, £28 Approx
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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