“Super Dark Times” takes a sharp turn from childhood innocence to complete mental and emotional chaos.
It’s an indie movie that, on the surface at least, looks like your everyday coming-of-age story. In the first act, a group of high school friends do what regular high school friends do. They ride their bikes around town. They spend most of their time goofing off in the woods and in each other’s houses. They talk about superheroes, and girls, and they make fun of nearly everything that moves.
They make stupid decisions, just like every teenager has done at one point or another. But a sudden and horrifically violent accident in the woods completely derails the course of both the film and their lives. As the psychological thriller begins in earnest, not one of these friends knows how to handle it.
It’s likely a familiar feeling for many, this idea of finally realizing that your actions have consequences, and not being able to do anything to affect the result of what has already happened.
There have been a number of stories like this one, where some unintentional mishap completely changes the lives of a group of best friends. Where “Super Dark Times” succeeds in places that others might have failed is the simple fact that nobody ever knows the right course of action.
These aren’t teenagers with unrealistically developed reasoning, or logic, or anything even remotely resembling good decision-making skills. They’re stuck, and they flounder in their personal relationships—internally because of their guilt, and externally to the world as they try to give off the air of nothing being wrong. As the movie progresses, they get even more entrenched into the whole ordeal until, to put it mildly, something just snaps.
Something surprising about the casting choice for “Super Dark Times” is the fact that almost the entire cast is unknown. While that might make a movie like this seem unattractive to a wider audience, it really works to serve the movie as a standalone effort with an incredibly powerful story. It’s not a drawback, though. With a story such as this, seeing a more recognizable actor’s face might take you out of the immersion of the film.
In this case, the audience really gets to identify with these characters as something other than celebrities. These are the genuine faces of growing up, of making bad judgements, and of finding a way to outrun, or at least survive, what happens next. The friendship between Zach and Josh—played with impressive reality by Owen Campbell and Charlie Tahan, respectively—is raw and comforting. That is what makes the unease so much more impactful as it starts to unravel, at first with a friendly rivalry over a girl they both like, and later for more ominous reasons.
This film is also just genuinely funny. It’s not “funny for a thriller,” not for an indie movie; there are no qualifiers necessary. The comedy in this movie, while in short supply as the film goes on, and in stark contrast to the horrific things that unfold, brightens the story in a very real and understandable way.
For the whole package—a movie that thinks as hard as it feels, and a brilliant original story that leaves the audience purposefully shaken, uncomfortable, and genuinely touched—I give “Super Dark Times” a 9 out of 10.