Nostalgia has a way of overwriting reality. Memory can put the good times in spotlights while shrouding the everyday dissatisfaction and awkwardness of growing up in mist. Also shrouded: the frequent awfulness of the people we used to be when we were young. One of the great strengths of Super Dark Times — the first feature film from director Kevin Phillips, working from a script co-written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski — is the way it refuses to forget those moments, or that awfulness.
Set at some indeterminate point in the mid-’90s, one early scene features its teenaged protagonists — Josh (Charlie Tahan) and Zach (Owen Campbell) — flipping through a yearbook and declaring who they wouldn’t have sex with while watching scrambled porn. They’re bored, horny, and both seem a bit short of empathy until the question falls to Allison (Elizabeth Cappuccino), whom Zach, the more sensitive of the two, can’t think of that way. Or at least not just in that way. She’s a friend, after all, and he might have feelings for her, sentiments the bespectacled, quick-to-anger Josh can’t understand, or maybe doesn’t want to. Before long they’ve moved on to debating the merits of the Punisher versus the Silver Surfer, neither quite recognizing that a schism has opened between them that will only widen over the course of the film. Soon they’ll have a more immediate problem, but it may not be bigger.
Latchkey kids left to their own devices, they spend their afternoons goofing around, playing video games, and trying gross-sounding snacks from the convenience store, sometimes joined by the overweight, awkward Daryl (Max Talisman) and Daryl’s friend from another school Charlie (Sawyer Barth). One day, poking around the abandoned room of Josh’s soldier brother, they find two cool items: a bag of weed and a samurai sword, not realizing these finds will seal their fate. When some horsing around in the woods takes an ugly turn, Daryl learns the hard way that the law of Chekhov’s gun applies equally to swords, leading the three surviving boys to bury his body, hide the weapon, and wait for his disappearance to blow over. But it doesn’t, leading each boy to respond in dramatically different ways.