In the past year, the screen — both big and small — has been dominated by small bands of friends fighting off an illogical and horrific being. While the beginning of “Super Dark Times” seems like an echo of that trope with its own group of friends riding around on their bicycles, it twists and distorts it into a darker, much more disturbing creature. Delving deep into the human psyche, this morbid film shows the effect of one instance on the core of one’s humanity.
Set in the pre-Columbine ‘90s in an upstate New York suburb, the opening scene of “Super Dark Times” does not relate to the plot as a whole; its eerie, post-apocalyptic tone establishes the mood for the rest of the film as the residual shiver and knot in the back of your throat remains. It provides a mirroring of the film’s raw portrayal of human emotion and relationships.
Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan) are two close friends who face conflict and deceit between one another after a terrible accident that causes each to assess their own humanity and sanity. In its aftermath, the impact of the tragedy multiplies itself as each boy copes with it in their own way. While Zach is riddled with guilt and seeks retribution, battling with his own subconscious that haunts him day and night, Josh loses sight of humanity and breaks with reality in order to cope. Their respective grief slowly tears at the boys’ once inseparable bond, further ripped apart by an inevitable love triangle that sneaks itself into every teenage film.
“Super Dark Times” is director Kevin Phillips’ feature debut, and disturbingly combines childhood memories and traumas reminiscent of “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” The script, written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, includes every weird, awkward and cliche event that one faces during their teenage years. This relatable, uncomfortable and humorous portrayal of the average teenager is quickly disrupted, however, leaving the audience almost as shocked, sickened and horrified as the young characters themselves.
Beyond the strong script and intriguing characters provided by Collins and Piotrowski, the cinematography and musical choices play into the film’s dark undertone. The synthesis of these aspects cement the film as a formidable piece that is an impressive first entry into Phillips’ feature career.
Though “Super Dark Times” might not garner the same public attention as more mainstream work, it will join the ranks of numerous exceptional but underappreciated films. Phillips ingeniously crafts a tale of adolescence, grief and the shattering of reality that forces these teenagers to grow into adulthood.
“Super Dark Times” will open in New York theaters on Friday, Sept. 29.
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