Director – Kevin Phillips
Cast – Owen Campbell, Charlie Tahan, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Max Talisman, Sawyer Barth, Amy Hargreaves, Adea Lennox, Ethan Botwick
Release Year – 2017
Reviewed by John of the Dead
For lifelong horror fans there is a sweet spot for coming-of-age films like Super Dark Times. Set in the fall of 1996, we follow a group of teenage losers who spend their time away from school riding their bikes and hanging out in the woods. When a gruesome accident leaves one of them dead, the ensuing cover-up leaves two inseparable lifelong friends with a wedge between them. As they try to move on with their lives this secret becomes the driving force behind their crumbling friendship and the violence that ensues.
With a story set during the late 1990s this is an experience and era I can relate to. I too remember riding bikes with my friends and doing dumb things, with most of us getting hurt in the process. Things turned out much darker for these dudes though. The first act is my favorite act of the film. It brings back fun memories, it’s full of heart, and it gives us insight into the innocence of our characters. The chemistry between these four boys is fantastic. They aren’t all the best of friends, with some only being acquaintances, but being outsiders and sharing the same struggles bring them together. All of this comes crashing down 26 minutes into the film. A freak accident from a dispute that went too far results in a dead boy. The other three teenagers decide to hide the body in the woods and try to go on with their lives without suspicion.
Trying to move on from the gruesome death is easier for some than it is for others, and that is where the conflict begins to form. We watch as the incident causes a rift between friends and unleashes a mental shift for one of the main characters. Innocence is lost here. If you are in the mood for a coming of age film where a protagonist develops into a murderous fiend then this will be up your alley. Watching this deranged descent in fantastic, and it even left me in shock at the events that were unfolding. I did not think such a person would be capable of such things. In these cases I love being wrong. If anything, I wish the third act wouldn’t have felt so rushed. When things finally get going it feels a bit too late and left me wishing such things would have developed earlier into the second act.
The direction from Kevin Phillips is a huge selling point for the film. To start, his atmosphere is incredible. The cinematography from Eli Born is fantastic. It immediately sucked me in and left me reliving similar times from many years passed. We are treated to great chemistry between the protagonists as well. You can feel the bond and when that bond breaks you feel that too. I was impressed with the acting performances from Owen Campbell and Charlie Tahan. They sold their roles and Phillips achieved heart-pounding tension from them. His full-frontal approach to the horror was the perfect way to go. Such a film, which is heavy in drama, doesn’t give off the vibe that it’ll be a grisly piece as well. The violence is so well-executed that it achieves a greater shock value given the fairly tame buildup. You wouldn’t think that a film centering on high school kids would incorporate such violence. The filmmakers refused to hold back and I appreciated that.
Overall, Super Dark Times is a great coming of age horror flick. It’s charm sucks you in from the get-go, and the violence will leave you glad to have survived adolescence.