Donnie Darko: Limited Edition (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: May 21, 2021
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Donnie Darko: Limited Edition (4K UHD Review)

Director

Richard Kelly

Release Date(s)

2001 (April 27, 2021)

Studio(s)

Flower Films/Pandora Cinema/Newmarket Films (Arrow Video)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: A

Donnie Darko (4K UHD Disc)

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Review

[Editor’s Note: The theatrical version is reported to have a stuttering frame rate issue which only affects certain UHD players. Viewing this on my Oppo UDP-203, I did not experience this. However, Arrow Video has publicly addressed the issue and is now offering a disc replacement program. You can find out more here: https://arrowfilms.com/disc-replacement-service/]

One of the more popular cult films in recent years, Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko was released theatrically in October of 2001. Though it initially underperformed, it gained an avid fan base in the US thanks to continued interest in the UK, but also after Kelly expanded and re-released the film as Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut in 2004. A blend of psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, and real world issues, it still works in an unconventional but effective way. The theatrical version offers a more cerebral experience, not giving viewers concrete answers and allowing them to draw their own conclusions, whereas The Director’s Cut conveys some of those answers, but in a less straightforward way. Jake Gyllenhaal, who was not yet a household name, gives a star-making leading performance as the dysphoric and seemingly supernaturally-gifted title character. Filling out the rest of the cast is a mix of veteran performers and fresh faces, many of whom would go on to have successful careers of their own. Today, both versions of Donnie Darko sit comfortably next to each other, offering different experiences but still maintaining the vision of their creator.

Troubled teenager Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) suffers from sleepwalking, inadvertently waking up in different places around his hometown. His family, including his parents Eddie and Rose (Holmes Osborne and Mary McDonnell) and his sister Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal), become concerned, particularly when he begins seeing visions of a man in a scary rabbit costume named Frank (James Duval) who tells him that the world will end soon. After an engine from a plane suddenly crashes into their home, Frank becomes more of an influence on Donnie’s behavior, causing him to be destructive while sleepwalking. Meanwhile, his school is using a controversial form of teaching by a Christian fundamentalist (Beth Grant), which was invented by a motivational speaker (Patrick Swayze) and objected to by teachers Karen and Kenneth (Drew Barrymore and Noah Wyle). Donnie, who is becoming involved with a new student, Gretchen (Jena Malone), doesn’t take kindly to this and causes further upset, with school bullies Seth and Ricky (Alex Greenwald and Seth Rogen) believing they will be blamed for Donnie’s behavior. As the intended date for the end of the world approaches, Donnie continues to get more and more out of control.

Donnie Darko was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision cameras with anamorphic lenses and was finished on film at the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. For this UHD release, the theatrical version of the film has been scanned and restored in 4K resolution from the original camera negative. The Director’s Cut included here is derived from the same restoration, but utilizes a 35 mm digital intermediate for footage exclusive to that version. Both restorations were performed in 2016, released in HD on regular Blu-ray in 2017, and have now been graded for high dynamic range (Dolby Vision and HDR10 options are included) with final approval by Kelly and director of photography Steven Poster. The differences between Arrow’s previous Blu-ray and this new Ultra HD presentation are clear when it comes to color and detail. The overall palette leans more toward the blue end, but skin tones appear natural, and the colors are richly saturated in daytime scenes, particularly in and around the school and during the nighttime Halloween festivities later on. Blacks are much, much deeper (they may even appear crushed to some viewers, so those with Dolby Vision capable displays will be glad to have them). Donnie Darko has always been a dark film visually, and this presentation only enhances that further. Grain levels are moderate, spiking only occasionally, and image detail is definitely increased across the board. Everything appears stable and clean. The added footage in The Director’s Cut blends well, but moments of pure CGI (such as Donnie’s dream of flooding the school) do stand out a bit. In the context of the film however, it’s more about style than photorealism.

The audio has been provided on both versions in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s a highly immersive track, with both the subtlest and loudest sound effects enveloping the listening space, and there’s a strong foundation of bass at all times. Crowd noise and other atmospherics fill the rear channels, while dialogue exchanges are clear and precise. Frank’s voice is bumped up considerably in the lower registers, giving him even more of a menacing presence aurally. The score staging has also been extended into the surrounds, adding to the experience. And there are no sonic defects or other issues to speak of, making this a dynamic and effective track.

Unfortunately, Blu-ray versions of these discs are not bundled in with this release. Only the previous Blu-ray of the theatrical version is currently available, but separately. The following extras have been included on each disc, all of which are in HD:

DISC ONE – THEATRICAL CUT

  • Audio Commentary with Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Audio Commentary with Richard Kelly and Cast and Crew
  • Deus ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko (85:32)
  • The Goodbye Place Short Film (8:43)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Married with Children (:20)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: A Telephone Conversation (:35)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Conversation with Frank (2:29)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Holiday Inn (3:34)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: The Bus Stop (1:17)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: School’s Cancelled (:30)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Wizard’s Arcade (1:07)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Poetry Day (:54)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: A Night on the Town (:58)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Losing Faith (1:45)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Book Exchange (1:01)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Pumpkin Carving (2:15)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Sexual Fantasies (3:05)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Return to Carpathian Ridge (:29)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Fatherly Advice (2:06)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Watership Down (3:46)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Airport Van (1:07)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Cellar Door (2:43)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Placebos (1:15)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Impalement (:27)
  • Trailer (2:28)
  • Easter Egg (:23)

DISC TWO – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT

  • Audio Commentary with Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith
  • The Donnie Darko Production Diary (52:54)
  • Archival Interview: Jake Gyllenhaal (1:57)
  • Archival Interview: Mary McDonnell (1:09)
  • Archival Interview: Holmes Osborne (1:21)
  • Archival Interview: Maggie Gyllenhaal (:49)
  • Archival Interview: James Duval (:34)
  • Archival Interview: Jena Malone (:37)
  • Archival Interview: Drew Barrymore (2:08)
  • Archival Interview: Noah Wyle (:52)
  • Archival Interview: Katharine Ross (:53)
  • Archival Interview: Richard Kelly (1:30)
  • Archival Interview: Sean McKittrick (:29)
  • Archival Interview: Nancy Juvonen (:40)
  • Archival Interview: Hunt Lowry (:26)
  • Archival Interview: Casey La Scala (:16)
  • Archival Interview: Steve Poster (:30)
  • They Made Me Do It (4:48)
  • They Made Me Do It Too: The Cult of Donnie Darko (30:17)
  • #1 Fan: A Darkomentary (13:18)
  • Storyboard Comparisons (4 in all – 7:58)
  • B-Roll Footage (4:37)
  • Cunning Visions Infomercials (5:42)
  • Gary Jules: Mad World Music Video (3:21)
  • Image Gallery (47 in all)
  • The Director’s Cut Trailer (:55)
  • TV Spot: Sacrifice (:32)
  • TV Spot: Darker (:32)
  • TV Spot: Era (:32)
  • TV Spot: Cast (:17)
  • TV Spot: Dark (:17)

The majority of this material has been released before on both DVD and Blu-ray, including three great audio commentaries: one featuring Kelly and Gyllenhaal; another featuring Kelly, Sean McKittrick, Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross, and James Duval; and a third for The Director’s Cut with Kelly and Kevin Smith. There are also a total of 20 deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by Kelly, a series of archival interviews with the cast and crew, vintage documentaries, a production diary with optional commentary by Kelly, an image gallery consisting of 47 production images, trailers for both versions of the film, and 5 TV spots. On the first disc, an Easter egg is buried in the Deleted and Extended Scenes menu. By pressing right when the back button is selected, an additional deleted scene can be viewed.

The newest additions (also found on Arrow’s previous Blu-ray release) include Deus ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko, a spectacular new feature-length documentary by the great Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, as well as Richard Kelly’s The Goodbye Place short film. The documentary features new interviews with Richard Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick, editor Sam Bauer, actor James Duval, writer and producer Rob Galluzzo, director of photography Steven Poster, costume designer April Ferry, and composer Michael Andrews. It’s an excellent and thorough retrospective that covers an enormous amount of ground. The Goodbye Place has touches of what Richard Kelly would eventually explore in Donnie Darko.

Besides the disc-based extras, there’s also a 100-page hardcover booklet containing cast and crew information, various photos from the film, a foreword by Jake Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko, Adolescence and the Lost Art of Remembering and Forgetting by Nathan Rabin, Discovery: Richard Kelly by Mark Olsen, Asking Cosmic Questions by Kevin Conroy Scott, The Cult of Patrick Swayze by Jamie Graham, After Darko: How Richard Kelly Adapted to the Apocalypse by Anton Bitel, and restoration information. Also included is a double-sided poster with new artwork by Luke Preece on both sides. The two discs sit in a black, double-disc amaray case with six lobby card reproductions tucked away inside. All of this material is housed within a rigid slipcase with new artwork, also by Luke Preece.

Donnie Darko continues to stand the test of time as one of the more arresting first-time writing and directing pieces, influencing the generation that originally saw it and beyond. Arrow Video’s new Limited Edition Ultra HD package offers a substantial upgrade of the film with a fantastic A/V presentation and a multitude of new and existing bonus features, the new documentary in particular being an essential watch. It comes highly recommended!

Donnie Darko (4K UHD Disc)

- Tim Salmons

(You can follow Tim on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel here.)

 

Tags

2001, 2160p, 4K, 4K UHD, Aaron Ryder, Adam Fields, Adam Fields Productions, Alex Greenwald, Alison Jones, Anton Bitel, Arrow Video, Arthur Taxier, Ashley Tisdale, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, Beth Grant, Blu-ray, Blu-ray Disc, Carly Naples, Casey La Scala, Chris J Ball, Christie McNew, Christopher Ball, Conrad Angel Corral, cult, cult film, Daniel Griffith, Daveigh Chase, David Moreland, David St James, Dee Austin Robertson, Dolby Vision, Donnie Darko, Donnie Darko The Director’s Cut, Drew Barrymore, Eric Strand, Flower Films, Fran Kranz, Gary Lundy, Gaylord Films, Holmes Osborne, horror, Hunt Lowry, Jack Salvatore Jr, Jack Truman, Jake Gyllenhaal, James Duval, Jamie Graham, Jazzie Mahannah, Jena Malone, Jerry Trainor, Joan Blair, Jolene Purdy, Katharine Ross, Kevin Conroy Scott, Kevin Smith, Kristina Malota, Lee Weaver, Limited Edition, Lisa K Wyatt, Luke Preece, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Margaret Kontra Palmer, Marina Malota Darling, Mark Hoffman, Mary McDonnell, Michael Andrews, Nancy Juvonen, Nathan Rabin, native 4K, native 4K restoration, Newmarket Films, Noah Wyle, Pandora Cinema, Patience Cleveland, Patrick Swayze, Phil Hawn, Phyllis Lyons, psychological thriller, Rachel Winfree, review, Richard Kelly, Rob Galluzzo, Robert V Galluzzo, Sam Bauer, Sarah Hudson, science fiction, Scotty Leavenworth, Sean McKittrick, Seth Rogen, Steven Poster, Stuart Stone, The Digital Bits, The Director's Cut, Thomas Hayslip, thriller, Tiler Peck, Tim Salmons, Tom Hayslip, Tom Tangen, UHD, Ultra HD, William Tyrer

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