Monsoon-A-Day ‘Super Dark Times’ (2017)

Welcome to Monsoon-a-day.
Where I watch and review a movie a day. Or whenever I fucking feel like it.

Day 74

 

The opening sequence of this film sets the mood that will permeate every frame afterward. There’s multiple static shots of tree tops, a broken window, a school interior, blood, and then we see it. The bloody corpse of a deer lying in the middle of the schools cafeteria.

It’s haunting, it’s unexplained but it’s a perfect metaphor for the events that will unfold. Nobody knows why the deer leapt through the window but he did and death was the consequence. One mistake can set us on a path to self destruction without us ever knowing it.

I don’t want to get into the plot of the film because the plot is almost inconsequential. The inciting incident could be any number of character mistakes because the story is irrelevant.  Like Roger Ebert liked to famously say “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.” And that perfectly encapsulates this film.

We’ve seen the same mistake made a million times in a million different movies. Films like Mean Creek and George Washington deal with similar incidents and just like those films, the what isn’t important. It’s the what now.

It’s watching the characters try and deal with the terrible accident that occurred and waiting for the metaphorical giant foot ala Monty Python to come crashing down atop them. The entire film is imbued with an almost palpable level of dread and tension. You know the film is leading to a horrible conclusion but you don’t know what it is.

Besides being a masterclass in mood setting, it’s one of the best depictions of teen life since Stand By Me. There’s not a false note in either the performances or the 90’s setting. It’s set about 20 years ago but the film isn’t using nostalgia as a crutch. In fact, if it wasn’t for the lack of cellphones, you wouldn’t even notice the time period. There’s Bill Clinton on the TV, some popular songs of the period and a character plays Twisted Metal. That’s about it.

Oh and they watch scrambled porn and talk about jerking off to True Lies.

They’re teenagers. Sometimes they’re unlikable but they’re never not believable. They’re believable characters thrust into an unbelievably situation. How they deal with it may border on unbelievable but since the characters are so well defined, you don’t project your actions onto them. You don’t critique the film because they don’t behave according to what you would do in the situation. You perfectly understand why they do what they do because you understand them as characters. Whether you think what they did was stupid, it’s at least keeping in character.

Characters that may or may not have ever had a chance to begin with. There’s only one parent ever shown in the film which is a plot point that’s brought up in the film itself. Almost nobody has a structured family unit. It’s like every one in the film is broken in some way. Like the bridge the kids visit or the deer dying on the cafeteria floor.

Is the film a commentary on cause and effect, where the lack of parents lead the kids to be cast out to fend for themselves like strays in the night? I have no fucking idea but like everything else in the film, the lack of parents is odd.

Or maybe they’re so numb to everything around them that they act like people in that Don Cheadle quote from the film Crash:

“It’s the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”

Actually, nevermind. That’s ridiculous. It’s definitely the first thing.

Crash is never right.

This is a remarkable debut by director Kevin Phillips that is automatically in the pantheon of great first time debuts. It’s a damn good thriller that needs more eyes and more praise because with enough word of mouth, this could become a classic.