Review by Kaylee Ruiz
Through playful banter and intense moments, a familiar plot gets a refreshing upgrade in Kevin Phillips’ Super Dark Times, where the director skillfully demonstrates how a single mistake can amplify the everyday struggles faced by teenagers. Set in the 1990’s, the film is filled with realistic banter between two teenage boys, Zach and Josh. I was impressed with the imperfection of their first conversation, the imperfection that makes up every conversation between teenagers. In fact, this motif is weaved into every image and act in the film. The boys have acne, messy hair, and the semblance of people who are lost in the world, who don’t quite know who they are or how to find themselves, realistic depictions of a teenage boy.
The characters are prominent and strong—Daryl, a friend of the boys, is a distinct and overpowering personality, and Max Talisman’s portrayal of him is spot-on. In fact, the scene that most caught my attention was one led by Talisman; while playing around with a sword that Josh finds in his brother’s room, he accidentally stabs Daryl. As the sword slips and lodges itself in Daryl’s neck, this gut-wrenching scene is a masterful representation of Phillips’ directorial skill. It caused a palpable jolt to ripple through the audience.
Daryl’s death scene was one only a truly skilled actor could do justice to, which Talisman definitely did. That the boys covered up the death, rather than get help or tell someone, is another sign of the film’s realism. Teen boys most likely wouldn’t know what to do in a situation like this, and would be apt to make the wrong decision while caught up in emotion.
Throughout the rest of the movie, Zach and Josh grapple with what they have done. Zach struggles with feelings for a classmate, Allison, played excellently by Elizabeth Cappuccino. Josh happens to like the same girl, which causes problems between the two of them. And so, when Zach becomes suspicious that Josh is hurting people, he knows exactly who he will go after next. The intensity of the realization that Josh might be on a killing spree is one that had me holding my breath in anticipation.
When Zach finds out that Josh has attacked Allison with the same sword used to kill Daryl, he quickly turns on him, and the entire audience around me shifted in shock. This sharp, unexpected twist is the thing that defines Phillips’ movie, the thing that sets it apart. It is one of the many elements that made the movie great.
Overall, Super Dark Times is an incredible story, one that had me on the edge of my seat all throughout, and one that I would recommend, and go see again.