The grey gathering gloom that hangs over “Super Dark Times” seeps into your bones.
It’s a ’90s teen thriller that has hints of “Stand By Me” and “River’s Edge” about it. And when it isn’t annoying the living hell out of you, it’s a grim, spare story with funereal reality and some pretty impressive performances.
The only problem with it is it entails spending 100 minutes with 16 year-old boys.
The morbid humor, boorish banter, trolling the school yearbook telling dirty lies or dirtier truths about the girls whose pictures they see therein, the warped values, creepy lack of a sense of proportion, the insane, inane admissions about why they watch their parents’ copy of “True Lies” late at night (Jamie Lee Curtis striptease), the ’90s fashion sense, impotent rage at bullies, not knowing what to do with your older brother’s pot stash now that he’s in the military, the tentative blunders in approaching that first real crush — it’s excruciating — to an ex-“Boy” any way.
And that’s before the precipitating incident and perverse, psychotic dreams and rising hysteria that this accident prompts.
Josh and Zach (Charlie Tahan and Owen Campbell) are best buds, hanging out too much in the days just before Christmas in their corner of upstate New York.
They meet up with the oafish Darryl (Max Talisman) and his friend Charlie (Sawyer Barth). As long as they avoid the subject of Allison (Elizabeth Cappucino), things should be cool, right? Josh worships her.
She’s just started to reciprocate his interest when it happens, and all of a sudden Josh has a secret to keep. They all do, except for the one who’s dead.
We see it coming far too soon, guess its outcome before it happens — the grim, shocked, panic-stricken death that comes from bleeding out.
The screaming — “WHAT DID YOU DO?” — the wrenching gasps of denial, the stunned ” I need you to calm down” replies. “It was an ACCIDENT.”
A full minute doesn’t pass before the feeble attempt to cover this up begins.
“I think we should hide this, too.”
The victim’s bike?
“I’ll take care of that.”
Native cunning has this one building an alibi for all this blood, that one remembering to forget that he knows the others. And there’s nothing like trying to talk to the girl you have a crush on when you’ve just begun a cover-up.
Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski’s script narrows the focus here to Zach, and Campbell (“The Miseducation of Cameron Post”) takes us into soul-sucking guilt and manic paranoia. His nightmares suggest a lifetime of therapy thanks to morbid, confused, hormonal sexuality is on its way, the waking nightmare that began with an accident is his rising terror at discovery and what might come from it.
Campbell makes us feel the deflating impact of telling that first alibi lie — to his “cool mom” mother (Amy Hargreaves). He quickens our pulses with his breathless sprints to “manage” the cover-up.
Director Kevin Phillips, making his feature filmmaking debut, makes the film a triumph of chilling, depressing tone. It’s a thriller, but it mimics the feel of a song from the era sampled on the soundtrack — “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand.”
We don’t see all of this coming, just enough to make us dread the next inevitable stage of this “Simple Plan.” The finale lacks much in the way of logic.
But “Super Dark Times” — boy, there’s a title that’s all truth-in-advertising.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast: Charlie Tahan, Elizabeth Cappucino, Owen Campbell, Amy Hargreaves, Max Talisman. Sawyer Barth
Running time: 1:41