In his remarkable debut feature, director Kevin Phillips returns to the pre-internet, pre-smartphone 1990s, when suburban teenage boys bike around for hours because there's nothing else to do. It's on one such outing that lifelong friends Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan) and a kid from another school (Sawyer Barth) become involved in the violent, accidental death of a fourth boy (Max Talisman), whose body they hide in the woods. Zach tries to return to normal life, which holds the promise of romance with the perfect girl (Elizabeth Cappucino), but he's seeing the dead boy in his dreams, and Josh, who's always been a little weird, has all but disappeared, even as news arrives of a second death.
Both a thriller and meditation on the loss of innocence, Super Dark Times is rich with the minutiae of a bygone era -- Walkmans, bad paneling and scrambled cable porn -- but Phillips and screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski press hard against the instinct for nostalgia. At the high school, in the background, more than one geeky student erupt and lash out in terror and anger, events Zach notices but doesn't fully acknowledge, just as he doesn't quite see that his pal Josh could easily be one of those kids. Any given day of teen life, this gorgeous, disturbing film reminds, is like walking across a beautiful field laden with mines -- you never see it coming.
Kevin PhillipsOwen Campbell, Alfredo Romeo Suarez, Charlie Tahan, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Max TalismanBen Collins, Luke PiotrowskiThe Orchard