Super Dark Times
super dark times | kevin phillips | ben collins | luke piotrowski | owen campbell | charlie tahan | elizabeth cappuccino | high school | history | crime | drama | thriller | united states | amy hargreaves | max talisman | sawyer barth | adea lennox | ethan botwick
Film: Super Dark Times
Director: Kevin Phillips
Writer: Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski
Starring: Owen Campbell, Charlie Tahan and Elizabeth Cappuccino
This movie I remember when it first came out. I meant to see it as part of a year end round up, but I just ran out of time. It was one that I kept on my list to check out eventually. It ended up being a podcast review as a trial run with Jake, who I connected with through a horror movie podcast group, which is now Side Quest Podcast. I’ve now given it a second viewing as part of the Summer Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs. To get into my review of this movie though, 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.
We start this movie in the basement of Zach. He’s down there with his best friend Josh. It is the 90’s so they’re watching scrambled porn and Josh is going through the yearbook. They talk about who they find attractive and the movie does a subtle way of introducing Allison Bannister (Elizabeth Cappuccino). Both boys like her, but Zach seems to way more and has a stronger connection.
The two leave, calling out to Zach’s mother as they do. They head toward a gas station for snacks when they meet up with Daryl (Max Talisman) and Charlie (Sawyer Barth). Josh doesn’t care for Daryl, who is loud and obnoxious. This is clearly to make up for his insecurities as a teen with a rough home life and poorer than the rest. Josh does tolerate him since Zach used to be better friends with him. The group goes to a bridge that was closed and disregard what the signs say.
We then get more of Zach and Josh together. Zach takes him to where Allison lives and yells out ‘Penis’ to make Josh uncomfortable. Things take a turn for the better when Zach learns that she called him. He calls her back and learns she invited him and Josh to a birthday party that weekend.
Things take a different turn though. Daryl invites himself over to Josh’s with Zach where they go into Josh’s older brother’s room. He is off for basic training with the marines and they find a stash of weed. Daryl really wants to take it or at least try some, but Josh refuses. He does show them a katana that his brother has. They go out to play with it by cutting milk cartons. The turn happens though when Daryl reveals he took the weed and Josh doesn’t hold back what he thinks. A horrible accident happens though, leaving Daryl dead. Instead of reporting what they did, the body is left, covered with leaves and the sword hidden.
The stress of what they did starts to weigh on them and they try to pretend like nothing happened. We see the changes come over the characters as they try to lead a normal life, but it is easier said than done.
This is another movie that I’m mad at myself for not having seen earlier as I think there are really a lot of good things here to talk about both in the story itself and what it is signifying. In prep for the podcast conversation, I also sought out a short film that director Kevin Phillips made before this called Too Cool for School. It seems to correlate back in the fact that we’re dealing with teens that are going through puberty. We’re seeing them try to become who they are, while also trying to be cool. It does seem like the same house that Zach lives in here as well.
To break this movie down a bit, I want to focus on our main character of Zach first. He’s your normal teen. He defends Allison when Josh is making inappropriate comments about her. Josh seems to like her, just because she is good looking. There’s more there for Zach. Plus, he has more of a connection with her and they’ve interacted more. When this horrific accident happens, he wants to protect his best friend, but the pressure of what happens is weighing on him. We literally get to see this through a nightmare. The right thing would have been to go to the authorities, but I completely understand why they did what they did. They panicked and I can’t fault them there, as I’ve had a situation in my life that would have been avoided by going to my parents first. Instead, I might life much more difficult and had to deal with the consequences.
On the other side here, we have Josh. He would be the one to truly get in trouble if there was trouble to be had. I don’t think he’s a psychopath though, as it was an accident. I do think there’s a bit of feeling of inadequate. Through conversation, we get that his older brother is a Marine and his younger brother is a prodigy. I’m wondering if this factors a bit into why he ends up doing what he does. The stress is weighing on him as well, but we see that he turns to doing bad things, including with drugs and how things play out. He sees his opportunity to shine and takes it. He’s made in what he becomes, I don’t think it was nature.
The last two I want to cover would be Charlie and Allison. First, he is interesting as he’s ready to wash his hands of all this from the beginning. He’s probably the smartest when it comes to getting away with anything as he scolds Zach for coming to see him. Allison is more interesting though. She knows that Josh has a crush on her. She likes Zach though. She is dealing with teen angst by smoking cigarettes, weed and sneaking away alcohol. Does that make her bad? Absolutely not, it just makes her a teen that is pushing boundaries. I do think that this movie is showing us the loss of innocence. They’re getting older and being a teen normally can be tough. Adding on the knowledge of a tragic accident, with that on their shoulders would be near unbearable so I believe what we see here. There’s also an interesting theory in regard to her and how things play out to make this even more intriguing.
I want to take this to acting, since I’ve already been covering the characters they’re playing. It was casted very well in my opinion. All of the teens actually feel like the character they’re playing. It is almost to the point where I actually questioning if they’re acting. It is even impressive how well they’re portraying the tortured feelings they’re dealing with. Going along with this, it is tough being a teenager at times so having that weight on their shoulders and not being able to share it with anyone but those around you. I was quite impressed overall.
I’m actually going to combine the pacing, editing and the music all together here. The reason being there’s an amazing scene where we have in the school office there’s a girl listening to a CD of techno music. Zach is hearing the ambient sound until it is loud of enough for us to hear it. I thought that was great use of sound and editing that together to shift over to the party for Allison. The movie never got boring for me and if anything, it got my anxiety going which I can really appreciate for sure. The feeling of dread goes as the movie goes which works in its favor.
The last thing would be the effects of the movie, which are quite subtle as well. I like that the blood looks real. They hide things with camera angles which is effective. I don’t necessarily think that was a bad move. It was there to drive tension, but also for our imagination to run with things as well. The weapon in the movie is different and kind of sets it apart. It also feels like late 80’s/early 90’s as well. The cinematography was also solid in my opinion.
Now with that said, I’m not going to lie, I really enjoyed this movie. This would be another one that I’m mad at myself for not having seen earlier. The concept of what these teens are dealing with is interesting, coupling with the idea of the loss of innocence, transitioning into being adults and trying to deal with all of this. The acting felt natural to me, which you don’t always get from teens. Despite have a bit longer of a runtime, it never got boring to me. It built tension and a feeling of dread. I thought the soundtrack fit and coupling that with the transitions used at times was solid. The effects were also subtle in my opinion, which still works just fine with what we got. I’d say this is a good movie and would recommend giving this a viewing.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10