Authenticity is a vicious beast when it comes to genre fare. The horror genre runs the gamut of over-the-top ridiculous gorefests that almost no one can possibly take seriously to gut punches that stick with you for days. Super Dark Times falls into the latter, but in as much that being a teenager can be horrific in and of itself.
Most of us want to forget the awkward days of acne and puberty, and while Super Dark Times isn't here to remind us about the embarrassments of juicy pimples and cracking voices, it is here to show us how fragile our young psyches can be. By being nothing more than a psychological thriller following two friends and how a majorly traumatic experience effects them in different ways Kevin Phillips debut feature slowly eases needles into our reminiscent hearts.
It's highly doubtful to impossible anyone will actually relate to exactly what traumatic experience the two less experience, but the tortured mindset and malaise of high school...yeah I'm sure that's fairly universal. In fact, the ease at which Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski navigate the tumultuous waters of teen angst is frightening in how authentic it feels. Combined with a nuanced and pained performance by the likes of Charlie Tahan (the little kid from I Am Legend) make for a grueling but effective viewing experience.
Perhaps the most effective gut punch in a film full of them is how quickly a teenagers care free demeanor can be snatched away and replaced with complete sorrow and mental anguish in a heartbeat. An air of depression floats around every second of the film about 30 minutes in and becomes thicker and thicker until you can hardly stand it anymore. The finale somewhat undercuts the film's overall message and teen angst commentary and it's attempts to tie things up becomes a messy bit of confusion--but who knows, maybe that's just the final "you know what sucks about being a teenager" nail in this particularly depressing coffin.
Putting it mildly, the film is called Super Dark Times for a reason. There are no warm fuzzies within eyesight here. There are no monsters hiding under the bed or in the shadows providing the immense dread that permeates the screen. Simply enough, Super Dark Times is a bleak and horrifying double reminder that one: being a teen is scary and two: teens themselves...are scary.
Screened as part of the 2017 Fantasia Film Festival.