Blu-ray Review – Donnie Darko – Arrow Video

Donnie Darko

Director: Richard Kelly 

Screenplay: Richard Kelly

Minutes: 113

Year: 2001

Score: 7.33

Release: Arrow Video

Long-time reader will note that when I made my Top 15 of 2016 I handcuffed myself from including to many region-locked releases and Donnie Darko pulled the short straw last year. Which means it will be an automatic nominee for this year’s list since Arrow decided to release it on this side of the ocean this year.



Fifteen years before Stranger Things combined science-fiction, Spielberg-ian touches and 80s nostalgia to much acclaim, Richard Kelly set the template – and the high-water mark – with his debut feature, Donnie Darko. Initially beset with distribution problems, it would slowly find its audience and emerge as arguably the first cult classic of the new millennium.

Donnie is a troubled high school student: in therapy, prone to sleepwalking and in possession of an imaginary friend, a six-foot rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days 06 hours 42 minutes and 12 seconds. During that time he will navigate teenage life, narrowly avoid death in the form of a falling jet engine, follow Frank’s maladjusted instructions and try to maintain the space-time continuum.

Described by its director as “The Catcher in the Rye as told by Philip K. Dick”, Donnie Darko combines an eye-catching, eclectic cast – pre-stardom Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, heartthrob Patrick Swayze, former child star Drew Barrymore, Oscar nominees Mary McDonnell and Katherine Ross, and television favorite Noah Wyle – and an evocative soundtrack of 80s classics by Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears and Duran Duran. This brand-new 4K restoration, carried out exclusively for this release by Arrow Films, allows a modern classic to finally receive the home video treatment it deserves.

Donnie Darko is an example of films that I hated the first time I watched them and did not give a director’s cut the time of day because of how much bile I spat upon first view. I was told, last year, that this was one of the finest releases so I pulled the trigger.

Round two was a complete departure for me. Everything that I despised before was gone, I could not remember what my problems were, maybe I thought it was too mopey, or I just didn’t get it. I still don’t get it but I am certainly better at watching obscure titles and wading through my issues to find some heart.

I have no doubt that it is the sole victory of Kelly crafting the director’s cut that he wanted. This is another issue of the studio coming in and borking a film. This, of course is my opinion because the original film has a legion of fan. At least one of whom told me that the original cut is much better than the director’s.  As such this is a clear indication of “your millage may vary.”

I have no doubt that this edition will be the standard for years to come. When you consider that the special features list has more words that the press text you can see why. This release I absolutely stacked and if you are a fan I very highly recommend you try and snag one of the Limited Edition boxed sets. I know that I am glad to have it on my shelf. 

Special Features:

  • Brand new 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut from the original camera negatives produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release, supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of both cuts
  • Original 5.1 audio (DTS-HD on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary by writer-director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal on the Theatrical Cut
  • Audio commentary by Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick and actors Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross and James Duval on the Theatrical Cut
  • Audio commentary by Kelly and filmmaker Kevin Smith on the Director’s Cut
  • Deus ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko, a brand-new documentary by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures on the making of Donnie Darko, containing interviews with writer-director Richard Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick, director of photography Steven Poster, editor Sam Bauer, composer Michael Edwards, costume designer April Ferry, actor James Duval and critic Rob Galluzzo
  • The Goodbye Place, Kelly’s 1996 short film, which anticipates some of the themes and ideas of his feature films
  • The Donnie Darko Production Diary, an archival documentary charting the film’s production with optional commentary by cinematographer Steven Poster
  • Twenty deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Kelly
  • Archive interviews with Kelly, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, and cinematographer Steven Poster
  • Three archive featurettes: They Made Me Do It, They Made Me Do It Too and #1 Fan: A Darkomentary
  • Storyboard comparisons
  • B-roll footage
  • Cunning Visions infomercials
  • Music video: Mad World by Gary Jules
  • Galleries
  • Trailers
  • TV spots
  • Exclusive collector’s book containing new writing by Nathan Rabin, Anton Bitel and Jamie Graham, an in-depth interview with Richard Kelly, introduction by Jake Gyllenhaal and contemporary coverage, illustrated with original stills and promotional materials
  • Limited edition packaging featuring new artwork by Candice Tripp

Director: 6 – Cinematography: 8 –  Edit: 5 – Parity: 4 – Main performance: 9 – Else performance: 6 – Score: 10 – Sound: 6 – Story: 10 – Script: 8 – Effects: 8 – Design: 5 – Costumes: 5 – Keeps interest: 10 – Lasting: 10