No Offense, But What Is Donnie Darko?

Donnie Darko, a movie that begins with a jet engine plunging directly into a suburban home, hit theaters shortly after 9/11, when the demand for plane-related horror was … low. The first-time directorial effort of 26-year-old Richard Kelly, starring future extremely famous people Jake Gyllenhaal and Jena Malone, Donnie Darko was relatively critically acclaimed, but otherwise a total bomb, making just a little over $500,000 at the box office.

For various reasons (the metal combo of critical acclaim and public rejection? The verboten nature of said plane-based horror? The fact that the director disputed the theatrical version and released his own cut three years later? Jake Gyllenhaal’s mentally unstable character?), the DVD became a massive cult hit, making $10 million domestically and spawning midnight screenings that continue to this day. If any clear message can be distilled from the movie — and honestly, I’m not sure that one can — it’s, “You’re not crazy, you’re just a martyr who’s smarter than everybody else.” As such, if you liked Donnie Darko, it meant you “got” Donnie Darko, which meant you were a genius and had cool, secret pain. If you didn’t like Donnie Darko, you were an idiot basic. This bizarre devotion to a movie about a teen boy being haunted by a rude bunny has only grown stronger over the years: On March 31, Donnie Darko will return to theaters around the country for a limited run because, as its press materials state, this will “allow a modern classic to finally receive the treatment it deserves.”

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