Blurring genre lines throughout, Super Dark Times marks a confidently audacious and impeccably assembled feature debut for director Kevin Phillips. In its adult depiction of innocence corrupted, Phillips’ midnight-dark film has shades of everything from Stand By Me to Donnie Darko and Stranger Things. Yet Phillips’ masterful command of mood, cinematographer Eli Born’s stunning use of wide-screen photography, a few unsettlingly horror-movie-like dream sequences, and the cast’s excellent performances all combine to elevate Super Dark Times above pastiche and into uncompromisingly bold filmmaking.
Enjoying their normal lives in mid-’90s suburbia, Zach and Josh are best friends with numerous shared interests, chief of which is an attraction to their classmate Allison. One seemingly routine day, along with two other friends, Zach and Josh borrow the latter’s older brother’s prized samurai sword to goof around in the local park. But the afternoon soon spirals out of control. Wracked with guilt, Zach struggles to assimilate back into high school life, even as Allison begins to show a romantic interest in him. The situation gets even more complicated once Zach notices a disturbingly off-balance change in Josh’s behavior.
Kevin Phillips was born in 1982 as the second son of a chocolatier. In 2015 he directed the short film Too Cool for School which premiered at Semaine De La Critique in Cannes. Super Dark Times is Phillips’ feature debut.