Super Dark Times ★★★

51/100

Starkest direction/script divide I've seen in a while. As a narrative, it's mostly idiotic, predicated on a decision that these teens wouldn't likely make and randomly transforming one of the culprits into a raging psychopath; the film boasts maybe the lamest third act of 2017, and I saw freakin' Geostorm. But this Kevin Phillips dude has got it. The first six shots alone, constituting only maybe a minute of screen time, are so exactingly composed and magnificently eerie that I could have written an entire Scenic Routes column about them. (For example: There's a sublime match cut on a sheet of paper that the wind briefly kicks up, due to a hole in the window. The fluttering movement appears spontaneous and unplanned, but those two angles can't have been shot simultaneously. Phillips conceived the sequence that way.) And he's as skilled with actors as he is with the camera—on paper, I suspect much of the dialogue would strike me as overripe, but this largely unknown cast makes it feel not just credible but unusually naturalistic. That's a gift. Hopefully next time it won't be squandered on such unworthy material (though the two writers are apparently his good friends, so uh-oh).