Director Kevin Phillips stunning feature debut is true to its title. An unnerving and bleak examination on teen angst, Super Dark Times turns a horrific tragedy into a ticking time bomb of violence. In Brad’s review, he raves, “Super Dark Times is tragedy in its purest of forms, removing the safety blanket from suburbia, tormenting the town with a morbid tale that will leave scars on each and every person who lives there.”
The most chilling aspect of the film is Charlie Tahan’s superb performance as Josh, one-half of the best friend duo at the center of the film. Josh initially seems far more mature than his childhood pal Zach, but he’s also far more volatile in nature. In a story about the loss of innocence, Josh allows it to take him to dark, unthinkable places.
That Super Dark Times takes place in mid ‘90s set suburbia is fitting; the lack of cell phones and the internet as we know it today meant growing up during this time amounted to boredom. Teen angst and boredom in the quiet suburbs was a recipe for destruction, especially if there’s already an underlying darkness as there is within Josh.
The loss of innocence and the harsh transition from childhood into adulthood has long been traveled, and some of the best explore that journey through horror. Similar to Josh’s twisted journey, these young suburbanites also deal with bullying, family issues, and growing up with psychosis and a killer instinct in the 90s:
Marty – Mean Creek
Conceived in the mid-90s, writer/director Jacob Aarons Estes’ Mean Creek shares a common D.N.A. with Super Dark Times. More of a psychological thriller than outright horror, the narrative also centers on a teen gathering gone horribly awry, and the subsequent way the teens cope with that event. For Marty, he already has skeletons in his closet thanks to his father’s suicide. It’s also Marty’s short-fused temperament that pushes a prank gone wrong into absolute pitch-black darkness.
Billy Loomis and Stu Macher – Scream
The quaint town of Woodsboro is still recovering from a major shakeup a year prior when Sidney Prescott’s mother was murdered. When the rest of the town seems to have gone back to normal, Sidney’s left reeling still. Luckily her sweet boyfriend supports her, and she has her best friend Tatum and Tatum’s goofball boyfriend, Stu, too. Except, upon the anniversary of her mother’s death, the bodies begin piling up in brutal fashion. It turns out Billy isn’t so supportive at all; he’s out for blood against the Prescott family for destroying his family. Billy’s methods are a bit unhinged, but at least his motive makes sense. What about accomplice Stu? Well, the suburbs are just too boring, and he needed something to do. Peer pressure is tough.
Mikey Holt – Mikey
More outright horror than the more delicately nuanced psychopaths on this list, Mike is a young orphan boy. He also happens to be a crazed psychotic killer who’s initially all sugar and spice as he’s welcomed into new fosters’ homes before killing the family members one by one. No one would ever suspect someone so young, and especially not in the suburbs. His baby face allows him to get away with murder again and again, and no one in the neighborhood would ever be the wiser.
Henry – The Good Son
Macauley Culkin delivers a stone-cold performance as Henry, a seemingly well-mannered twelve-year-old who embraces the arrival of his cousin Mark (Elijah Wood) after the death of Mark’s mother. It’s quickly revealed, though, that Henry has a deep-seated fascination with death and soon displays psychopathic behavior. The idyllic suburban setting proves to be a perfect disguise for Henry, with him playing up his politeness until his mother finally must acknowledge her son’s deadly ways. Though vying for his mother’s attention seems to be what pushed Henry’s psychotic nature front and center, this killer could have grown up to become a true serial killer, blending into his suburban surroundings like so many true crime serial killers before him.
Nancy Downs- The Craft
Perhaps sharing most in common with Super Dark Times’ Josh, Nancy is also a suburban outcast suffering through high school is the same time frame. Coming from a broken home and dealing with the teen stigma of trailer living, she’s furthered bullied by her peers when the high school jock spreads rumors resulting in harsh slut-shaming. Displaying a dark lust for control and power before Sarah’s arrival, the completion of their witch’s circle leaves Nancy ravenous for more and sends her on a downward spiral of revenge and destruction.
Rachel Lang – The Rage: Carrie 2
Rachel’s coming of age story is a rough one. Living with foster parents after her mother was institutionalized for schizophrenia, Rachel’s a bit of an outcast at school as well. Her best friend, and really her only friend, commits suicide after discovering the jock that she lost her virginity to only used her. When Rachel seeks justice on behalf of her friend, the jocks set out for revenge and humiliation, triggering an inner power in Rachel that becomes all-consuming. This sequel may not have been as loved as its predecessor, but Rachel’s story does a great job of conveying just how catastrophic adolescence can be in complete social isolation.
Donald “Donnie” Darko – Donnie Darko
There’s a surreal, visual quality to Super Dark Times that harkens back to this lucid cult classic. While Donnie Darko takes place in the late eighties, it still has a similar suburban feel that feels adjacent to Josh and Zach’s journey. Donnie’s story is very different, though, in that he begins the film as a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and walks a path of self-destruction instead of inflicting damage on others, though there are certainly casualties of his actions.
The Orchard’s My Super Dark Times is now in select NY/LA theaters with a full VOD release slated for October 3rd.