Super Dark Times: a title that indicates viewers will be in for some bleak viewing material. However, there is much more to this feature than gloomy overtones.
At its core, Super Dark Times is the story of friendship, love, and adolescence, all wrapped in an unconventional package. We follow a small group of four friends. Like many teen boys they discuss girls and explore the neighborhood on their bikes. These kids are conveyed in a realistic, fleshed out manner, and their dialogue is more atypical than stereotypical. While the groundwork for these roles have some formulaic tendencies, there is sufficient individuality in each person’s lines and demeanor to make them believable and interesting characters. Although the discourse could be misconstrued for another teen drama, the cinematography will soon squash any fears of that.
Super Dark Times is a beautiful film with a visually pleasing sense of style. The camera does the talking that the actors are incapable of. It gives us an impression of the small town, the characters’ personalities, and an all-inclusive sense of foreboding through some truly majestic shots. From the get-go we get the feeling that something unpleasant may take place from the aforementioned vibe, yet nothing could prepare me for the shock to come. A quick warning, we are getting into slight spoiler territory here.
The four friends decide to play around with an older brother’s samurai sword, but the fun and games soon take a grim turn when a disagreement sees one of the boys becoming accidentally impaled by the blade. This section was as startling and as harrowing as it sounds, a cinematic moment that will live with me for a long time to come. Much of this scene’s effectiveness needs to be attributed to the excellent performances given by the four onscreen actors, especially Zach played by Owen Campbell and Josh, played by Charlie Tahan. These two boys, terrified of the repercussions, decide to conceal their friend’s body and attempt to continue on with their lives. However, the guilt builds, nightmares plague Zach, and before long he starts to wonder if his best friend’s act of manslaughter could have given him a taste for murder. Part teen drama, part thriller, part mystery, Super Dark Times is a highly entertaining concept made even greater by a fantastic filming style and equally fantastic acting.
Spring Creek Sun: “The accident scene is very realistic, so much so the audience gasped. Did you do any research into real life tragedies?”
Owen Campbell: “I didn’t do any research in the sense of looking up other accidents or even images. That would have been a good idea. But I did spend a lot of time trying to visualize, in particular, the parents of Daryl seeing his corpse, which thanks to brilliant makeup looked like a corpse, so that’s easy to do. The team around us was focusing on making the world feel as grounded and as realistic as possible, which allowed me to just play make believe, and then I would spend time investing in that and that’s one way to access that experience.”
Spring Creek Sun: “The teen drama elements felt like they got progressively heavier throughout the experience as Zach and the other kids attempted to come to terms with what happened.”
Owen Campbell: “I think that’s a testament to the script and the brilliant screenwriters is that they gave us such a wonderful road map, and at each turn you had to focus on okay, where are we? What’s happened? You know, the goal of Zach, the many goals of Zach don’t escalate always. It can just be trying to flirt with a girl or trying to calm down a friend, which are the same goals from the beginning of the film but then you know the context around him and the other characters keep changing, and as long as you’re honest with that context it should, hopefully, inform the performance.”
Photos courtesy of Dean Moses and Tribeca Film Festival