Super Dark Times – Film Review – Fantastic Fest 2017
Super Dark Times, the new film from cinematographer-turned-director Kevin Phillips, blends elements of River’s Edge (1986) and Stand By Me (1986) with a dose of 1990’s middle class suburbia to tell the story of a group of high school teens living in upstate New York who accidentally kill someone and become concerned that one of them has developed a taste for murder. In a world plagued by frequent school shootings and mass casualty events, Super Dark Times is smaller in scale, and is all the stronger for it. The film is just as interested in the death of innocence and the ending of friendship as it is about the actual killing that takes place.
The film opens with Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan) thumbing through their year book, discussing which girls in their class they’d like to have sex with. Their relaxed candor with one another tells the audience that they are life-long friends. When they start poking around in an older brother’s bedroom, they find a samurai sword hanging on the wall. A few scenes later Zach and Josh with a couple of additional friends in tow head out for the woods to slice and dice stuff with the sword. With a title like Super Dark Times, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that four rowdy adolescent boys and a samurai sword may not make for the best outcome.
As is often the case with teen dramas, Super Dark Times is about the end of an era in the lives of these young protagonists. High school is drawing to a close. Blossoming relationships with female classmates begin to supplant the male bonding between Zach and Josh. The real world beckons. And then the (inadvertent?) death of a classmate brings everything crashing down around them. The trio of survivors carries a terrible secret. One of the boys finds himself tormented by the incident. Another seems to be indifferent. And the third boy feels liberated by it.
The story itself is simple, but compellingly told. The screenplay by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski keeps the narrative moving at a brisk pace. First-time director Kevin Phillips tells his tale confidently. The tone and sense of place generated by Super Dark Times feels like the work of filmmakers with dozens of credits to their names. The film is impressive on its own merits. The fact that it’s a debut feature from the talent behind the camera makes it all the more memorable. I look forward to seeing what they do next.
Super Dark Times will be available on most VOD platforms on Tuesday, October 3, 2017.