Time flies. It's been almost two years since Richard Kelly's bravura head-scratching mood piece Donnie Darko was sprung on an unsuspecting world. A flop at the US box office but a sleeper hit in the UK, this time-travelling story about Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) - a troubled paranoid schizophrenic teen in 80s American suburbia - hit a post-9/11 nerve. Re-released in a Director's Cut with 20 minutes of additional footage, this extended Darko lightens the darkness, proving that - sometimes - less really is more.
Die-hard fans of Kelly's original movie will be quick to point out the benefits of this extended edition. Sprucing up the sound and visuals, this remastered print comes with some definite bonuses as the extended jukebox of 80s tracks adds to the film's nostalgic vibe, and scenes of Donnie spending time with his family sharpen the film's anxiety-inducing edge.
"DARKO FOR DUMMIES"
Elsewhere, though, Kelly's inexperience as a director is all too apparent. Previously snipped footage - including close-ups of Donnie's eyeballs, waves crashing onto a beach, and a series of computerised sequences from classic 80s videogame Outrun - should undoubtedly have stayed on the cutting room floor.
Worse still is the clumsily executed decision to try and explain the movie's time-twisting narrative. Superimposing excerpts from the book The Philosophy Of Time Travel, Kelly bravely tries to smooth away Donnie Darko's paradoxical mysteriousness with a series of audience pointers. The effect is rather like substituting the enigmatically pursed lips of the Mona Lisa for a giant yellow smiley face.
Given the film's troubled Stateside debut - where American audiences rejected it for being too weird for its own good - one can't help feeling that this is less a Director's Cut than a "Darko for Dummies", designed specifically for those who are unwilling to give themselves over to the original's vertiginous, haunting power.