Teenage angst is hardly an unusual theme in American - let alone American indie - films, but rarely does the apparently traumatic business of surviving high school come wrapped in a package as visually stunning, scary and intelligent as this.
Super Dark Times was shot in upstate New York but the story is set in generic suburbia - neither city nor country, much as the central characters are neither children nor adults. Zach and Josh are best friends some time in the 1990s - Clinton is on TV, Nirvana is the cool band. But a tragic accident (which occurs so quickly you at first, like the boys, don’t believe you saw it) drives them gradually further and further apart.
So far, so generic. But what happens next is what makes Super Dark Times one of the most exciting discoveries of the past year (it had its international premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival in January). Much of this is down to performances. Owen Campbell as Zach and Charlie Tahan as Josh are excellent: there is a scene between them near the start that establishes their skill with supposedly improvised dialogue - looks easy but isn’t.
Director Kevin Phillips, whose short Too Cool for School was selected for Cannes in 2015, has 20-plus credits as a cinematographer, This is his feature directorial debut, greatly helped by the cinematography of Eli Born, it is both beautiful and threatening. Warning: super sharp blades are used in this film.