Metal My Movie: Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko, the cult classic film from director Richard Kelly, is currently celebrating its 20-year anniversary. What might have been seen as the mythos about the American Suburb being a great place to live gets subverted into a supernatural gothic tale complete with a Nostradamus plot set in the 80’s. The soundtrack has more of a rock somber mood, as Michael Andrews provides the somber score and isn’t afraid to punch up a scene with some synth loops to give the film its atmosphere.
Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is not your average teenager, more of a social outcast for the most part who has an imaginary friend by the name of Frank, a monstrous rabbit. While sleepwalking outside of his house one night, Frank tells Donnie that the world is ending on October 31st, 1988 - exactly 28 days away. Donnie returns home to find that a jet engine crashed into his room while he was gone. Over the next few days as his visions of Frank become more predominant, Frank uses Donnie as a vessel for destruction and Donnie himself grapples with the realities of space and time to see if he can put a stop in any way to the ending of the world. Donnie knows that there are some good people in the world including his family, friends, teachers (Drew Barrymore and Noah Wyle) and his girlfriend Gretchen (Jena Malone). Even though we see the first outcome happen I feel that director Richard Kelly wanted an alternate ending.  Without spoiling the ending, let’s just say that protagonist Donnie lives up to the role by doing something that would qualify as the most metal heroic act of any film.  
Michael Andrews composed the score for the film, which is at times a more somber Brian Eno type score. However, for the scenes with Frank meeting with Donnie or when Donnie starts acting out, Andrews uses synthesizers to give the film an uneasy feeling. As for the soundtrack, we get right into the decade of the film with "The Killing Moon" from Echo and the Bunny Man, which may be a slight nod to Frank. Rather than having a metallic sounding song from Tears for Fears, it’s more of the 80’s pop/rock track "Head Over Heels" as Donnie gets to school. At a Halloween party some more classics are played, including Joy Division’s "Love Will Tear Us Apart". The metallic sound of the Tears for Fears classic "Mad World" closes out the film. Singer Gary Jules takes on a somber approach which perfectly aligns with a poignant character reflection moment and revives the song for a new generation. 
In the same way that Sam Mendes subverted the mythos of the American suburb in American Beauty, Richard Kelly subverts the mythos through the genre of a supernatural gothic tale with Donnie Darko. Through the subversion of the mythos, the metal self heroic act finale from the main protagonist, its indie rock 80’s soundtrack and the score from Michael Andrews, Donnie Darko is the ultimate cult classic film celebrating a 20 year anniversary, and is truly deserving of the Metal My Movie treatment. If nothing else, it’s definitely worth a revisit for Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as the title protagonist. 
Next week, Guardians of the Galaxy from director James Gunn gets the Metal My Movie Treatment. Got a movie you feel should get the Metal My Movie treatment? E-mail us to let us know. 
Remi and Danny host At The Movies, which can be heard every Tuesday morning from 8:00 - 9:00AM. Tune in for discussions about movies, soundtracks, and iconic film scores. At The Movies also covers film festivals that are located in Montreal.