8 Small Details You Only Notice Rewatching Donnie Darko

The mind-bending movie two decades on: shining a light on Donnie Darko.

Donnie Darko
Newmarket Films

Donnie Darko received its cinematic release on 26 October 2001, grossing just $110,494 in its opening weekend. The journey from script to screen was not an easy one for visionary writer-director Richard Kelly.

While such a surreal and psychological project is already an uphill struggle in catering for mainstream cinema audiences, Kelly had to navigate various challenges to get Donnie Darko to the screen.

Not only does the plot feature an accident involving a plane (the jet engine that falls onto the protagonist's bedroom), it was also showcased and highlighted in the trailer and marketing material. It doesn't take much consideration to figure out why this would be a serious concern during the backend of 2001. Another all-too-real tragedy, the Columbine High School Massacre, also caused early studio viewers to raise concerns around Donnie's gun scenes and the teen suicidal ideation. The movie's acclaimed soundtrack also presented its own problems with songs being included that were yet to be licensed.

Despite it's modest release, Donnie Darko snowballed into an international cult hit, giving viewers plenty to ponder and enough questions for them to be keen for a rewatch...

8. Rabbit Spotting

Donnie Darko
Newmarket Films

Frank, the guy in the nightmare fuel rabbit suit, has become ingrained in pop culture and is the first thing that most people recall about the surrealist masterpiece. The mask by sculptor Dale R. Brady makes Frank one bunny you won't forget in a hurry. However, there are several more stealthy rabbit references.

A stuffed rabbit keeps Elizabeth Darko company while she sleeps on the recliner. In the theme of Halloween, there is also a glimpse of a jack-o'-lantern bunny towards the film's conclusion. Those keeping a close eye will also notice a brief nod to the connection between Donnie and Frank. When Donnie picks up his car keys from his desk there is a Polaroid picture of a childhood Halloween. It shows Donnie dressed as a rabbit. The song The Killing Moon is heavily featured in the cinematic edit of the movie and packs and heightens the atmospheric tone. The band behind the track are Liverpool musicians Echo & The Bunnymen.

In perhaps the most obscure rabbit references, when Gretchen waits for a bus, a car briefly passes. On closer inspection it is a Volkswagon Rabbit.

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An English Lit. MA Grad trying to validate my student debt by writing literary fiction and alternative non-fiction.