After a horrible accident and subsequent cover up, three high school students wander down a dark path of paranoia and violence.
This film is all about awakenings. It is a coming of age story, but not one along the lines of “Superbad” or “Breakfast Club”. “Super Dark Times”. As the title suggests, “Super Dark Times” is a much grimmer coming of age story, but it is one that examines teenage years in a very true, honest light. Super Dark features a cast of relative unknowns, and it was also Kevin Phillips’s directorial debut, but the film is an incredibly polished, well-made thriller. While the film starts off slowly, it builds to an incredibly tense finale, one that will linger in the minds of the viewers days after the credits roll.
“Super Dark Times” takes place in the 1990’s upstate New York. Zach (Owen Campbell, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”) and Josh (Charlie Tahan, “I Am Legend”) have been friends since childhood; they have inside jokes, they know each other’s parents, they like to play video games, and swear a little too much. They’re typical teenage boys, insecure in themselves, just trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world. After a brief, ominous prelude, the film begins with the two friends in a basement, looking over a yearbook, talking about the girls (and teachers) they fantasize about. They find they both have a thing for Allison (Elizabeth Cappuccino, “Jessica Jones”) a girl whose home they walk by later that afternoon. The boys tease each other about going up to the door to talk to her, but in the end, in true teenage boy fashion, they instead scream “Penis” at the top of their lungs and ride off on their bikes, guffawing maniacally.
Later, after bonding with Charlie (Sawyer Barth, “Bridge of Spies”) and Daryl (Max Talisman), two younger, eighth grade boys bond over eating freeze-dried squid from a gas station. Zack and Josh invite them back to Josh’s house where the boys wander unattended, as Josh’s mom works late. In Josh’s brother’s room they find a katana and marijuana. Daryl asks if they can smoke the pot; Josh refuses, but he offers something better- a chance to cut milk cartons in half with the sword.
(Some Spoilers Follow)
The boys venture into the woods to violently bifurcate their cardboard victims, and soon the katana glistens with the liquids of the cartons. The boys continue hacking and slashing the cartons, until they notice that Daryl has stolen the marijuana from Josh’s brothers room. He smokes it, angering the rest of the boys. Irritated, Daryl agrees to return the pot, but out of frustration he strikes Josh while his back is turned. The two boys fight and fall to the ground. In the process Daryl is impaled by the katana and killed.
The remaining boys- best friends, Zack and Josh, and eighth grader, Charlie- panic and hide the body and katana. They vow never to speak of this again, and they all go there separate ways. We follow Zack as he goes to return Daryl’s bike to his home, en route he stops to take out the frustrations on a cement wall, breaking his hand in the process. When Zack arrives home, to his complete and utter surprise, Allison is waiting on his couch. Too stunned to speak, Zack migrates to his room. Allison follows and mentions that she heard him screaming outside her home earlier. Zack is in shell shock; Allison takes a hint and asks if he wants her to leave. Zack says that he really just hurt his han. He looks like he might cry. Allison sits beside him and Zack leans his head on her.
As the days go by, Zack becomes more and more paranoid about Daryl’s body in the woods. After the initial accident, we follow Zack’s character more than the others, taking an in depth look at him as he succumbs to his guilt-ridden conscious. He has vivid dreams with prophetic but muddled meanings. I wont reveal too much more of the plot, as to do so would be to spoil the whole movie, but know that the film becomes increasingly claustrophobic, and the characters, volatile and unstable.
Philips does a great job of easing us into the plot. The pacing is slow and methodical, and in the process it builds a great atmosphere. We get to know and like the characters before Daryl is killed off, and then we can immediately see the difference the incident has made in their lives. The violence is jarring when compared with the life the boys led before. He likes to hide symbols throughout the film, too, and one dream sequence in particular, while confusing during the initial viewing, should make an incredible amount of sense in retrospect.
As stated before, the film is about awakenings- and that is an evident theme throughout the film. Sexual awakening is a major theme as Zack becomes more and more interested in Allison, though the only sex scene is actually quite mild, and during a very trippy, but meaningful, dream sequence- (the same one mentioned above.) The theme is never far from our minds, and it’s established straight away; Phillips goes so far as to point out the phallic nature of a fence post in one of the opening scenes, and from there the theme is woven sporadically into the background. Another, darker awakening is hinted at throughout the film as well, one that is hard to pick up on, if you aren’t looking for it.
I like movies with a slower pace, but some people find them boring. This film takes a while to get going, and then once it does get going, it takes a while to really hit the same level of intensity again. After the initial shocking accident, the pace wanes, before the paranoia begins to build again. For those who don’t mind wading through the middle, the finale will be well worth the wait.
“Super Dark Times” is a good suburban thriller that looks at the nature of awakenings, accidents, and growing up and apart from friends we knew, or thought we knew. Though it may not be for everyone, “Super Dark” is a methodical journey into paranoia that pays off for those who wait.
Review Written By: