After the opening dinner-table kerfuffle, Donnie is seen sleepwalking and speaking to Frank on his neighbor’s golf course in the dead of the night. The setting of the scene is extremely eerie, as the tone shifts from a coming-of-age drama to an unsettling, apocalyptic sci-fi involving otherworldly beings who double as messengers of doom. Frank, ever-menacing, tells Donnie that the world is about to end in a precise amount of time. However, the underlying terror of the scene emerges from the way Donnie responds, his eye hooded and chin angled downwards, perpetually smirking at Frank’s ominous prophecy.
Gyllenhaal told People how he had intuitively incorporated this creepy stance while talking to Frank, making every scene he shared with the monstrous man-rabbit his own:
“I remember as an actor making a choice in that scene as to how I talked to the rabbit. That wasn’t really scripted. It was the beginning of where I said, ‘I’m just gonna throw this and see where it sticks.’ And all of a sudden I started looking at the rabbit, my chin down, looking at him in a particular way. And eventually, it became a choice that my character made every time he saw the rabbit.”
Gyllenhaal’s choice to speak to Frank in this specific manner was so effective, that even Duval, who was acting opposite him in the nightmarish rabbit mask, was creeped out by his ” otherworldly intensity.” This is especially fitting, given how Donnie is meant to fulfill the trope of the chosen one, the Living Receiver who is meant to be in tune with things that do not hail from his world. Even without this context, the scene is appropriately creepy and sets Donnie apart from the average angsty teen in coming-of-age arcs.