‘Super Dark Times,’ a 2017 psychological thriller movie directed by Kevin Phillips, is an unconventional coming-of-age story that depicts the friendship between two young boys. Following a tragic accident where Josh accidentally kills a young boy named Daryl, his best friend, Zach, helps him cover up the murder. However, as the secret weighs down on the latter’s young shoulders, he starts getting paranoid about the situation and finds it hard to return to regular life. Meanwhile, the incident grates on Josh’s conscience, and soon things turn worse between the two high schoolers.
The film, set somewhere in the 90s, crafts a perfect landscape of nostalgia that effortlessly immerses the viewers in its setting and characters. Firmly grounded in the mundane, the narrative is equipped with convincing nuance and explores themes of teenagehood, burgeoning sexuality, and morality. Due to the same, viewers might get curious about the horror film’s connection to reality. If so, here is everything you need to know about the origin of ‘Super Dark Times.’
Is Super Dark Times a True Story?
No, ‘Super Dark Times’ is not based on a true story. Nevertheless, considering the subject matter, the film certainly has its roots in reality. The concept found its start years before its production and has an interwoven connection to director Phillips’ 2015 teen thriller short film, ‘Too Cool for School.’ The short, centering around a rebellious sex-crazed teen who faces unimaginable horrors, acted as a “point-of-sale piece” for ‘Super Dark Times.’
Phillips discussed the same in an interview with Rue Morgue and said, “It [‘Too Cool For School’] was set in the same cinematic universe as ‘Super Dark Times,’ from a craft perspective as well as the mid-90s setting, and similarly dealt with youth, masculinity, sexual frustration, and teen angst.” Since screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski wrote the script for both the short and the feature film, the narrative coherence between the two media is easy to spot. Moreover, since the short film deals with such intimate and universally relatable themes, it’s understandable why Phillips decided to create his feature film directorial debut in its image.
However, given the film’s topical theme of violence incited on teenagers by teenagers, the filmmaker initially had his own reservations about the story’s reception. “I really wanted to do justice to them [the film’s themes], and it took me a while to come around to making the movie because of the polarizing quality of the material,” said Phillips about the parallel between the film’s story and the impact of school shootings in the country. He continued, “At the end of the day, though, it was those themes that won me over, in the sense that I felt it was a very important and timely film to make. That’s what the medium is for—to challenge not only yourself but also audiences with important themes.”
By setting the film in the past, away from the modern lens, Phillips presents a raw and authentic take on a deeply complex topic. The 90s atmosphere created a disconnect from viewers’ modern notions of violence among teen boys and depicted it in its most basic form. Adding on to the same, the filmmaker discussed the thematic resonance of the film’s period setting and said, “We wanted to explore that potential undercurrent and the fragility of youth—particularly masculinity—in a timeless way, to give a sense that it has always been fragile, it has always been problematic, it has always been easily distorted.”
At the same time, the film, a tragedy wrapped in the horror genre, doesn’t solely focus on the narrative and the characters’ violent themes. In fact, at times, the gore takes a backseat to the film’s emotional heart: Zach, Josh, and Allison’s tumultuous journey as teenagers. The film delves into the awkward teen phase with realistic dynamics between the characters. Phillips took a lot of inspiration for that aspect of the movie from his own life. From thematic instances like dwindling friendships to some literal incidents lifted from his life, the director imbued the story with his own experiences.
Even though nothing as drastic and dramatic happened in his youth, Phillips understood teenagehood as well as any other person could and thus found his film’s authenticity. Therefore, it is undoubtedly ripe with reflections of real life. The same enhances the storyline and the characters and helps the viewers relate to the situation empathetically. Regardless of the same, ‘Super Dark Times’ is not based on any real-life characters or events and is purely a work of fiction created by Phillips, Collins, and Piotrowski.