Super Dark Times (2017) (100 minutes)
Directed by Kevin Phillips.
Written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski.
Starring Owen Campbell, Charlie Tahan and Elizabeth Cappuccino.
Sometimes in film, a mood or feeling transcends the writing, itself. Kevin Philips’ debut feature, Super Dark Times is one of those films. The overall moodiness and aura of this teenage drama/horror film creates a skin-crawling dread that stuck with me long after viewing it.
The story follows a group of bored suburban teens in the early 1990s. They ride around on their bikes, talk about the hot girls in their class, constantly try and one-up each other, and basically act like any other young teenager would. The main focus of the story is on a boy named Zach and his best friend Josh. Both Zach and Josh are enamoured with a girl at their school named Allison, who is also a major focal point of the story and becomes a source of division between the two boys.
In the way that the first act is set up, the film very well could have worked as a normal coming-of-age drama. The young actors performances and the nostalgia of growing up in the 90s were much more effectively presented than a lot of movies in that genre. After a gruesome accident, the typical teenage-drama tone of the first act starts to take a hard shift as the characters have to navigate through the living nightmare that they created until it eventually turns into a (quite literal) bloodbath by the third act.
What makes Super Dark Times stand out among most similar movies, is in the way that it is told. The story itself is nothing new, in fact the film’s climax is almost predicatable. Despite this, the film was somehow mesmerizing. Similar to the cult classic, Donnie Darko, the overall mood is effective enough that the viewer is inclined to overlook the faults in the story.
From the very beginning, shots of the dreary and grey winter sky, and a sweeping ambient score, create an atmosphere that lingers throughout the film. A lot of the shots are framed at eye level or slightly below and as a result, the viewer feels the unsettling tension and eventually pure terror that the characters experience. The story’s protagonist, Zach, has several nightmares throughout the film and they are shown close up with both surreal and frightening imagery that is straight out of a psychological horror movie. The violence is sparse, but when it happens it is absolutely brutal and jarring.
Super Dark Times is a teenage drama film that feels closer to horror at many points, and because of this, may scare off some fans of either genre. It is also extremely well-crafted and wonderfully moody, which is why it is a film that should definitely not be overlooked.