Super Dark Times (2017)

Owen Campbell, Charlie Tahan, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Amy Hargreaves,
Teenagers Zach and Josh have been best friends their whole lives, but when a gruesome accident leads to a cover-up, the secret drives a wedge between them and propels them down a rabbit hole of escalating paranoia and violence.
  • 6.6 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski, Writer:
  • Kevin Phillips, Director:
  • Edward Parks, Richard Peete, Jett Steiger, Producer:

Trailer:

7/10 / 10

Saw this at the Rotterdam film festival 2017 (website: iffr.com). Thesynopsis on the festival website contained ample pointers to avoid thismovie, for example "life revolves around vying for popularity, hangingout, falling in love and looking for kicks". Luckily there was onlylittle attention for partying, courting, clothes, and more such, unlikeother movies covering youngsters of high-school age. The real dramatook some time to develop, but once becoming apparent it stayed in theforefront, and so should it be.

A bit problematic (for me) is that the finale went a bit too fast andtoo bloody for my taste, something that did not follow logically fromwhat happened before. It seemed a bit over the top. On the other hand,a different ending was not easy to think of, as involving the policeand the legal system would have ruined the story completely. Moreover,it would require bringing in the parents of our main protagonists,which usually does not bode well for the clarity of the drama. Anyway,unexpected turns of events came at a steady pace and without weakmoments, one step after another. The role of the female collegestudents was less cultivated, as if they were only background tapestry,or maybe serving as catalyst material to speed up developments butotherwise not really crucial for the outcome.

Unclear is the opening scene where a deer is found dead in the classroom with a broken window. It took some time before the police entered,who started exchanging glances with each other, but I'm at a loss whatit all meant.

From the final Q&A I learned a nice statement: "planting little seedshere and there is the essence of script writing". And also: Rhythm andpacing are important (it was a side answer to a question about thesound track, but even more applying to the screenplay).

Also from the Q&A: A serious attempt was made to give Josh moredimensions in his character. Same for the others, though they did notneed it that much. All were nice young men without really bad habits,but only nice is not enough to keep our interest.

All in all, I was glad to have booked tickets for this movie, despitemy fears that it was to become another coming-of-age story with toomuch time devoted on courting and partying. This time there were noproblems along that line. It sustained a real focus on the centralstory and its pacing of subsequent developments. The audience awardedthis movie a mediocre 73rd place (out of 172) with an average score of3.905 *out of 5).

7/10 / 10

What a totally enjoyable 'under the radar' film.

Tragic events well acted by the young cast, and a very believablescenario.

An unlucky accident just spirals and moves at exactly the right pace.Never too sensational. Never too gory. And you can't help but feelmoved by the inevitability of the story.

Sharp. Succinct. Well acted. Well made. Great script. LOVED IT!

/ 10

Then Super Dark Times might have been it. Overall I enjoyed this filmand I do recommend it. The performances of the young actors are welldone;I especially enjoyed the performance of Amy Hargreaves (theattractive mother) who plays the mom as someone who is unaware of theexact situation her son has gotten himself into, but she is NOT yourstereotypical naive and clueless parent that is so often portrayed insuch films.

That said, the film is not without its faults. The opening scene whichthe director NEVER returns to makes absolutely NO SENSE in the contextof this movie. Additionally, having been a high school geek myself(although that was back in the late 70s and early 80s), I find it oddthat the cute girl (played by Elizabeth Cappuccino) would even have theslightest romantic interest in the nice guy geek Zach played by OwenCampbell; sorry but those of us who fall into the "late bloomer"category know that growing up, the most we could hope for from the cutegirls was to end up in the friend zone and foolishly hope that one dayshe would wake up and realize that the nice guy is the guy for her(BALONEY!) That subplot reeked of a writer's fantasy to me.

One particular standout was Sawyer Barth as the eighth grade boy fromanother school who accidentally gets caught up in the violence. I mustsay, this young fellow gave a very underrated by convincing performancein a supporting role.

Finally, a few points about how the ending unfolds as it does left mesomewhat confused. I could not understand why one particular characterbehaved a certain way, nor did I understand why someone else did NOT dosomething that should have been fairly obvious. That's all I want tosay since I don't want to spoil it for anyone. I give it arecommendation if you like dark coming of age stories.

7 / 10

Life Before the Internet

Teenagers Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan) have been best friends their whole lives, but when a gruesome accident leads to a cover-up, the secret drives a wedge between them and propels them down a rabbit hole of escalating paranoia and violence. Not to mention both friends are interested in the same girl (Elizabeth Cappuccino).

Viewers of a certain age and upbringing will latch on to this film almost immediately. This was life in the pre-Internet era, circa 1992, with scrambled pornography on television being the most exciting thing a teenage boy could hope for. Perhaps an older brother will have a sword or some other contraband to show off to your suburban friends and be a hero for a day.

Through this film, we also get a peak at the "nerd" or outcast world, not far removed from the group of kids featured on Netflix's "Stranger Things", if we add a few years. Having been a part of that crowd and that generation, the reviewer can confirm that conversations about a prosthetic "hand that cooks steaks" might have been entirely plausible. Interestingly, the outcast world (the reviewer again confirms) has its own tiers. There is more than one kind or level of unpopular, and as we see in "Super Dark Times", the annoying overweight kid is likely to be looked down upon, even by those already ostracized.

Without giving too much away, let us just say an unfortunate death haunts this small band of outsiders, but what really shows off the cleverness of the script is how they deal with it in different ways. Who will be able to handle the pain and guilt? Who will be eaten up inside? And as the warning signs tart adding up, will anyone notice that this is not all just going to blow over? The acting is top-notch and you have to give these kids credit for tackling such dark material and executing it flawlessly.

The direction is strong, and this really comes through later in the film as we start to feel the pacing gnaw at us (in a good way). There is an incredible use of suspense and tension as the film reaches its climax, and if you find yourself literally on the edge of your seat, you are not alone. The viewer ultimately winds up caring about these kids, and cannot even attempt to look away as things could become worse? or salvation swoops in. It could go either way – you just have to watch and see.

"Super Dark Times" screened on July 13, 2017 at the Fantasia International Film Festival (opening day). There are many strong films this year, as there are every year, but this film really sets the bar high for suspense and thrills. As the festival rolls on, other films will try – and possibly not succeed – in matching that bar.

4 / 10

Whoa man, like, super dark

It's been awhile since I've seen a movie that started off quite promisingly only to go so absurdly off-the-rails. It's certainly a well-directed film with a strong grasp on tone and boasts a number of striking visuals and a haunting score. The first act was especially strong and, despite its dark content, evoked a sense of realism. Sadly, this is a quality that the film seemed to progressively lose with each passing minute, ultimately stumbling into a third act that felt completely forced and even nonsensical. The key character arc of the film just didn't work, plain and simple. His character wasn't established or developed enough to justify his actions and the result was a finale that felt hollow and exploitative. The movie takes itself incredibly seriously and for awhile it seems like it may justify that seriousness with something of substance. Instead, the effect is akin to a teen with a joint in his mouth saying "whoa man, super dark times. like, super dark." It's hard to even look at the title of the film without smirking now. Wish I could give it a higher score for its undeniable strengths, but alas that third act casts too dark a shadow. At the very least I can see this director going on to do some cool things, especially if he can get his hands on a better script.

Strong 2/5