You're right, actually. I am pretty- I'm, I'm pretty troubled and I'm, I'm pretty
confused. But I... and I'm afraid. Really, really afraid. Really afraid. But I...
I... I think you're the f**king Antichrist.
The story takes place in 1988 in the town of Middlesex, Virginia, during the time of the US Presidential election. Donnie Darko is an intelligent and emotionally troubled teenager who sleepwalks, and experiences visual hallucinations possibly because of his schizophrenia (which he takes medication for), and is in the medical care of a psychiatrist. One night, a jet engine from a commercial aircraft falls into Donnie's bedroom. He avoids death only because prior to the accident, he had obeyed a voice in his head that led him to sleepwalk outside of his room. The voice is that of Frank, an apparently imaginary man in a man-sized rabbit costume. At midnight on October 2nd, Frank phropeseis to Donnie that the end of the world will occur in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds.
Later, Donnie begins seeing "silvery plastic gel" spears that flow out from people's chests. Such a spear indicates where a person will travel in the near future. In one example, Donnie sees one spear snake into the room, followed by his younger sister skipping through the room. Another spear leads Donnie to a pistol in his parents' closet, which he takes and keeps his parents gun.
Meanwhile, Frank instructs Donnie to perform acts which provoke certain chains of events:
With both of their parents out of town, Donnie and his sister Elizabeth host a Halloween costume party on October 29th, a day before the prophesied end of the world. At one point in the party, Donnie finds that the memo board on his refrigerator reads, "Frank was here, went to get beer."
Donnie leads Gretchen and two other friends to seek advice from Roberta Sparrow when they get ambushed by two school bullies who happen to be robbing the house that night. During the struggle, the bully asks, "why the f*** are you here?" to which Donnie proclaims "Deus ex Machina". Gretchen, having been pushed to the ground by the other bully, is run over and killed by a car swerving to miss Roberta Sparrow. The bullies flee. The car that killed Gretchen stops, and Donnie sees the driver as Frank in a rabbit costume for Halloween. Donnie uses his parents' pistol to shoot Frank in the eye, killing him. This was foreshadowed by earlier scenes in which Donnie stabs the mirror image of Frank in the right eye and when Frank removes his rabbit mask to reveal a gaping wound in his right eye.
Arriving home with Gretchen's body, Donnie spots a portal opening in the sky and drives to a hillside. Donnie's mother and sister experience turbulence on their return flight home; one of the airplane's jet engines detaches and falls. The engine travels through the time portal to 28 days earlier, crashes into Donnie's bedroom, completing the predestination paradox. This time, Donnie laughs and stays in bed.
The story ends on the morning after the jet engine accident. Donnie is dead and the people his actions affected are stunned. Frank, wearing a ghastly rabbit costume subconsciously touches his right eye. Gretchen is alive and rides by Donnie's house on her bicycle. Never having met Donnie, she talks with a neighborhood child about the sad accident. She waves somberly to Donnie's mother and they seem to share a vague sense of mutual recognition.
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