Suffice to say, video game crossovers can be pretty bogus outside of the Super Smash Bros. series. But putting Donnie Darko stuff in Call of Duty: Warzone and Black Ops Cold War takes the cake. This might be the single most ridiculous mash-up I’ve ever seen. The whole thing is so stupid that I’m ironically coming around to its brilliance.
Donnie Darko is a 2001 psychological thriller starring a barely 20-year-old Jake Gyllenhaal and an impressive ensemble cast featuring the likes of older sister Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, and the late, great Patrick Swayze. It didn’t make a huge splash when it first debuted but it’s since become something of a cult classic, mostly among Hot Topic goths and a certain breed of cinephile. It’s not bad, especially if you like somber “Mad World” covers.
(Also, complete aside here: Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly is an absolute, unrecognized genius. Watch Southland Tales. It’ll change your life.)
At its core, Donnie Darko is a moody, little film about a troubled high-schooler plagued by strange premonitions about the part he plays in the end of the world. Naturally, this makes it perfect fodder for Call of Duty: Warzone and Black Ops Cold War, both of which are celebrating the spooky month of October with a variety of horror-themed events.
The limited-time Donnie Darko bundle includes an operator skin based on Frank the Rabbit (an otherworldly entity that haunts the Gyllenhaal’s eponymous protagonist), several weapon blueprints also bearing Frank’s creepy, masked face, and a finishing move that references one of the film’s most pivotal scenes, wherein (spoiler alert) Donnie goes back in time to ensure a falling jet engine crushes him.
The preceding events and potential explanations for this bit of teenage self-sacrifice are far too numerous and complicated to get into here. If you haven’t seen the movie, believe me when I say it’s darkly hilarious to see that moment employed in what amounts to a Call of Duty fatality. The version of me who revered Donnie Darko as a masterpiece in middle school would have been pissed at this kind of cheap exploitation but, today, I’m honestly impressed by the developers’ audacity.
Oh yeah, Scream’s Ghostface is in Call of Duty too, if that’s more your speed. In previous years, the series also introduced other horror movie killers like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Leatherface and Saw’s Jigsaw. While I’m not quite sure how Donnie Darko fits into this tapestry of serial killers, I’m nonetheless grateful for the laugh this whole thing gave me.