Richard Kelly’s cult 2001 film about a disturbed teen and a scary rabbit named Frank is coming back to British cinemas, and it looks as beautiful and bizarre as ever
They don’t make cult films like they used to, and Richard Kelly’s debut feature Donnie Darko is the epitome of the kind of sleeper hit that just doesn’t happen any more in our super-saturated media age. At Sundance in 2001, this strange, bittersweet film opened to little fanfare and snuck into cinemas unannounced, but it still found a devoted audience. Later, on home video, it became a cult item. No DVD cover this century had more joints rolled on it as teens and students soaked up Kelly’s film’s irresistible blend of high school love story, suburban satire and sci-fi philosophising.
A ridiculously young-looking Jake Gyllenhaal plays our title character, a somnambulistic teen with some mental health troubles, which get considerably worse when a terrifying man-sized rabbit tells him the world will end in 28 days, six hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. Looking back, it’s a wildly bold piece of filmmaking, serving up breakneck genre shifts seamlessly and delivering out-there plot twists that take your breath away. Many films tried and failed to recapture Donnie Darko's style (the Ashton Kutcher-starring The Butterfly Effect an obvious example), but none came close to its creepy magic.
And it’s back! A mint fresh 4K restoration from the BFI means the film is returning to UK cinemas next month for its 15th anniversary to blow a new generation of impressionable minds, and we’re delighted to say the film looks as weird and wonderful as ever. Take a look at the dizzying new HD trailer above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Donnie Darko's 15th anniversary 4K restoration is released by Arrow, and screens at the BFI, London, from 16 Dec and cinemas nationwide from 23 Dec