Written by: Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski
Directed by: Kevin Phillips
Starring: Owen Campbell, Charlie Tahan, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Max Talisman, Sawyer Barth, Adea Lennox, and Amy Hargreaves
Synopsis: Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan) are best friends growing up in a leafy Upstate New York suburb in the 1990s, where teenage life revolves around hanging out, looking for kicks, navigating first love and vying for popularity. When a traumatic incident drives a wedge between the previously inseparable pair, their youthful innocence abruptly vanishes. Each young man processes the tragedy in his own way, until circumstances grow increasingly complex and spiral into violence. Phillips dives headlong into the confusion of teenage life, creating evocative atmosphere out of the murky boundaries between adolescence and adulthood, courage and fear, and good and evil.
A harrowing but meticulously observed look at teenage lives in the era prior to the Columbine High School massacre, SUPER DARK TIMES marks the feature debut of gifted director Kevin Phillips, whose critically acclaimed 2015 short film “Too Cool For School” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
I’ve been looking forward to Super Dark Times since I saw the trailer a few months ago. It looked to capture a time that I grew up in (I was 15 in 1995 in which this film take place) and you don’t often see films set in that time period the way you do with movies set in the 80s or 70s. The cool thing here is that Super Dark Times is not ABOUT the 90s, it just happens to be set in that time period. It’s never one to slap you in the face with its nostalgia. Instead, it lulls you back to that time period naturally, and if you happened to be someone who is the age (give or take a year or two) of the characters, you will be transported right back to your youth.
One of the strongest parts of this film is the characters. They are deep and well developed. I feel like everyone had a friend like these guys or was one of these guys and it makes the events of the film that much more impactful. The actors top to bottom are excellent. Their performances are natural and restrained. Nothing feels over the top, everything is so authentic and real. Truly exceptional performances from everyone.
I was shocked when I read that this was Kevin Phillips’ debut feature film. His work here is masterful. It feels like someone with a lifetime behind the camera. To be fair, he is working with a brilliant script from Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski that just unfolds in a perfectly paced way. Everything looks and feels so authentic and natural. It feels like a slice right out of someone’s life. If they were to come out and say that these events really happened I’d believe it completely.
I really have noting I can critique here. The film looks beautiful, the performances are superb, the script is excellent, and the soundtrack is just dazzling. In fact, I immediately purchased the vinyl. I guess if I had one complaint, I wanted more, and would have loved more time spent with the friends to further establish their lives and connections.
A story about how young people deal with tragedy, about growing up and growing apart from your closest friends, about pain and adolescence, Super Dark Times is a near perfect film and a must see. Dark, tense and superbly acted. A masterful directorial debut and a spectacular script. Most assuredly one of the best films of the year.
Go. See. This. Film.
Super Dark Times is in theaters and on demand now.
Garon Cockrell is the Founder and Editor of Pop Culture Beast and host of The Pop Culture Beast Show. He founded the site over seven years ago to have a place on the internet to write about the things he loved. Since then, Garon has become a best-selling author (Demonic and Other Tales), an award winning screenwriter (Best Screenplay 2013 Motor City Nightmares Film Festival), and a cast member on the top rated podcast, Never Not Funny.