As unsettling as a giant rabbit with metal teeth, Richard Kelly's cult psychological chiller stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the titular suburban teenager who has visions that lead him to believe the world will end in 28 days. Packed with visually arresting ideas and off-kilter casting (Drew Barrymore is a Graham Greene-spouting teacher, Gyllenhaal's sister Maggie plays his on-screen sis, and Patrick Swayze vents fire and brimstone as a creepy preacher), the bogglement continues from beginning to...
If you were a student living through the Reagan era, it's pretty certain you would have relished access to the space time continuum to escape mad Ron's bizarre policies.
Disturbed teenager Donnie Darko (Gyllenhaal) looks like he has. But, of course, he may not. It's difficult to tell in this unsettling first feature from director Richard Kelly.
When we first meet Donnie he appears like any other Eighties college boy - he has dinner table fights with his sister Elizabeth (Gyllenhaal's real-life sibling Maggie) and hurtles through the neighbourhood on his bike.
Then things take a slightly different turn. A jet engine weighing several tons crashes through the roof of the family home, completely obliterating his bedroom.
Fortunately, Donnie has been tempted out of the house by a six foot rabbit, resplendent with huge pewter teeth and a grim warning that the world is going to end. Jimmy Stewart's Harvey, he ain't.
As the minutes to doomsday tick away, we follow Donnie and meet the rogues' gallery of characters he hooks up with as Earth's deadline approaches.
There's slimy motivational speaker Jim Cunningham (splendidly rendered by Swayze), whose duplicitous message centring on the "Fear/Love lifeline" Donnie sensationally reveals.
Then's there's morally righteous gym teacher Kitty Farmer (Beth Grant) who gets her sympathetic colleague Ms Pomeroy (Barrymore) kicked out for quoting Graham Greene at the kids.
Kelly sets up an intriguing premise...but the disparate threads of the story are never cleanly drawn together to provide a satisfying denouement.
Fortunately, in Gyllenhaal, he has an actor who manages to hold the teetering edifice together for the best part of the movie... but the end is more of a whimper than a bang.
and there are some very good ideas on offer (if you ignore the Tears For Fears soundtrack). As Kelly says: "I wanted to provide some answers but also leave some questions."
For some, though, he may leave rather too many.