Super Dark Times: NZIFF Review
The bonds of friendship are explored in this weird hybrid of every feckless teen movie you've ever seen.
In Super Dark Times, there's a mix of 80s style bonding as a group of outsider youth hang out. Josh and Zach (Charlie Tahan and Owen Campbell) are besties and have been for years. Talking rubbish as they thumb through their high school book, watching scrambled cable porn and just riding around on their bikes, the duo has a bond that makes them inseparable.
But when the group expands by two (Charlie and Daryl), things get a little trickier and tragedy hits. Unsure of the best course of action, the group splits, but Josh and Zach find their friendship irrevocably changed in the aftermath.
As paranoia grows and guilt begins to consume them, it's clear things will never be the same again...
Increasingly paranoid, this indie version of an extreme Stand By Me brings great truck to the cinema by essentially taking the elements of youthful friendship (a shared desire for a girl, wanting the best for each other, shared experiences) and pushing them as far as they can go.
With a high powered soundtrack and a precision eye for how best to ramp up the tension, director Kevin Phillips makes the coming of age tale something a little bit different. There's a real sense of foreboding once the film becomes something a bit different early on and once the more frivolous edges are jettisoned.
Campbell gives a great performance as the increasing horror of what has happened sets in, and his withdrawal from the advances of Allison (Emily Cappuccino, the young Jessica Jones) feel very real and devastatingly heartbreaking as well. Equally Tahan's withdrawn nervy state convinces as Josh goes through what he's going through.
Stylistically with its music choices and its aurally disorienting soundtrack, Super Dark Times may make you think of a cross between Stand By Me and Donnie Darko, as it's a continuation of that high school unease that's become such a trope for films of its nature.
In many ways, Super Dark Times is a journey; one that's through both adolescence in many ways, and one which is through darker times as well. And while the end sequence seems like it comes from a little leftfield, the overall feeling of Super Dark Times is one of an unnerving experience, and a deeply unsettling ride that's made a little more palatable by the spiky unpredictable work done by the actors and the first time director.