Film debuts can usually be uneven, but exciting films. I love watching a young filmmaker find their voice, while taking big risks that you might not see from a seasoned director. Kevin Philip’s Super Dark Times is one of those debuts that takes a lot of risks, but does it with so much confidence that it allows you to overlook its flaws. The flaws are few and far between and what we get is a snapshot of adolescents in the mid-nineties. Super Dark Times is far more than a coming of age film. It is also a mature, top shelf thriller that is both beautiful and stressful.
The story is about a group of high school friends who quickly lose their innocence when a tragic accident occurs. They are all forced to keep an awful secret and start to unravel under the pressure and guilt of the situation. I don’t want to ruin any of the film’s major plot points and suggest going into the film completely cold.
Kevin Philip nails the tone in this thriller and utilizes beautifully shot dream sequences that play out like the nightmares of David Lynch. The opening shots are of a dead deer that establishes what we are in for over the next 100 minutes. As we meet the characters, they are carefree and doing what teenage boys do. They swear, snack and watch scrambled porn with each other. If you were born in the early eighties, you will be able to relate to an embarrassing degree. All of these setups give a vibe that something awful is looming around every corner. Once the event does happens, it is jarring and sad. The boys are easy to relate to and only adds to this film’s magic.
Story and script aside, the film is shot well and takes advantage of its beautiful settings. Mr Philips understands how to frame shots and make every interaction seem to bubble over with rage and fear. The boys who star give great performances and nail the cadence of being that age. All of their hormone-induced conversations feel authentic and I hope to see these kids in more features. The only thing that bugged me was the rushed third act. The film’s conclusion works, but seems rushed compared to the more meandering pace of the first two acts. The final few shots continue the dreadful tone, but just get a little muddled going into its major conclusion.
Super Dark Times is currently screening at Fantasia Film Festival and is scheduled for release in September of this year.