Super Dark Times (Phillips, 2017)

The opening of Super Dark Times is so rich in promise, with a bizarre setup that could either be literal or symbolic in nature. It’s never mentioned again, and it could very well be because it happens after the events depicted in the narrative. An ominous flash forward in the guise of a prologue. Unfortunately, nothing else in the film can match that piece of mood setting. Kevin Phillips tantalizes us with a bit of bait and doesn’t give us more. Instead we get a film based on a first draft of a script that deals with two friends getting in way over their head when a terrible accident occurs. Some shit goes down with a sword (?!) and you can see the end result coming from a mile off. In the aftermath, the teens have no idea how to act rationally, which I’ll admit seems true to life. But then, as time marches on, somehow the story has to end, and the writers aren’t content with it making sense. So it ends making no sense at all! It could have succeeded if they had worked logical progressions into the characterization of the villain so that we could pick up signs of mental deterioration and disturbance. However, the only character to get any sort of development is the one who isn’t a bloodthirsty psychopath.

Needless to say, the last fifteen minutes of this are a downright mess. It reminded me of a poorly-written murder mystery where the most underwritten suspect turns out to be the killer, and no amount of the detective explaining things can convince you of the truth. Add some protracted violence and fake blood, and it becomes extremely gratuitous and melodramatic. And what message is this film trying to send, anyway? That the people closest to us are one psychotic break away from killing us with the serenity of a Buddha? There’s almost nothing you can take away from this experience except an onslaught of unpleasantness. Which is too bad, because Phillips shows a lot of promise behind the camera. With a good script, he could do wonders. To say he deserves better than this is an understatement.