Super Dark Times

2017Crime Thriller ∙ 1h 43min

I seem to have fallen into this weird place with my viewing habits of late. Super Dark Times continues my odd trend of unintentionally picking television shows and movies starring and about teenagers in the 1990s. Perhaps it’s some unconscious desire to relive my childhood, as I move comfortably into a new-ish phase of my life, or maybe I just like coming-of-age tales about young adults making super-poor decisions. Whatever the case, the teens in this movie seem to almost purposely go against common sense in just about every scene. Maybe that’s part of growing up. Maybe it’s a more realistic portrayal of young minds? So many movies and shows show us kids through the eyes of the adult writers; smart beyond their years, devious, organized and brilliant. Not everything can be Cruel Intentions, however. Some times — most times — kids are just idiots, make the absolute wrong choices and are basically just dumb as hell. It’s a more realistic look to have kids do the opposite of what a logical adult would do. It goes against what we’re used to and sometimes breaks our brains, but the dumbassery that happens in this movie is closer to the truth than your typical The Good Son evil-mindedness.

That all said, this film does go way too far. I mean it starts in a relatively realistic place. A group of teenage friends living in Upstate NY bullshit about girls and eat gross stuff from a convenience store and ride bikes around the wooded areas in their town. It seems relatively normal and in line with what I imagine kids in small towns do. In their boredom, they snoop around one kid, Josh’s, older brother’s room. He’s in the military and has been deployed somewhere and has apparently left behind some porn mags, weed and a couple weapons in his bedroom. Why he’d leave his drugs and stuff in plain sight for his mom or brother to find is kind of a little bit of a plot hole — along with the fact Josh has never really snooped previously — but I guess we’ll let that one go. Josh and his buddies fixate on the katana that they’ve found and decide, in a really unfortunate move, to take it out to the woods to chop up airborne milk cartons. One of the seemingly peripheral friends, Daryl, is just about the most annoying person I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s unclear if he’s supposed to be mentally challenged, Autistic or just an utter and complete dumbass shitbag, but he steals the weed and decides to smoke it while the chopping goes on, which leads to a fight between him and Josh (who told him not to touch his brother’s drugs) and ends in Daryl accidentally being stabbed through the throat with the sword and dying. The mechanics of this whole thing are a little dubious and not even remotely surprising, but, again, we’ll go with it. And this is where the stupid child thing comes in. Rather than calling an adult and admitting the accident — and accident that affected a kid who is universally despised, by the way — they hide the body and sword and try to make some pact that they won’t talk about it. Violating the first rule of accidental murder, of course…

From there, things spiral. Paranoia, oddball dreams, tense love triangles and escalating violence rule the day. And the relationship of the two best friends, Josh and Zach (who was there and instrumental in the hiding of the body), starts to fray. Josh is clearly nervous, and his relationship with his new girlfriend (whom he had his eye on before the murder) is suffering. Zach is half despondent and half cool as a cucumber. But, either way, he is showing weird wear and tear over the incident. And it’s Zach’s seemingly rapid descent into madness that ultimately made the movie a miss for me. This kid Zach is weird about the murder, sure. But what starts out as missing a couple days of school and some strange behavior escalates quickly into full-blown mania super-quickly. And before we know it, we have like De Niro from Cape Fear on our hands. I understand that teenagers are impressionable and their minds aren’t fully formed, but for a kid to go from relatively mild-mannered to serial killer because of one incident seems pretty far-fetched. It’s as if the writers had the beginning of the movie, which was decent, and knew they had to get to a point at the end of the movie, but had to kind of yada yada the bridge to get us from point a to point b. What could have been a more of a psychological take, really delving into the paranoia and eventual unraveling of the group over the inciting incident, would have been strong enough in itself, but instead the filmmakers fell back on the tried and true bloody end-of-film battle to the death that inevitably ends not completely unlike Lethal Weapon with two dudes fighting on a lawn outside a house while cop cars roll up. The movie had potential, and I’m sure some even liked the end-it-with-violence thing, but they could have pulled some cool, twist Hitchcock ending based on the setup, but chose instead to just battle it out in old school, predictable style.