Super Dark Times

Kevin Phillips explains that he set his debut feature in 1995 to examine the “undercurrent of darkness” in white teenage boys that fed the Columbine High School massacre four years later. That’s an admirable goal, abetted by his sure feel for adolescence in the Clinton years (the main characters are introduced in a basement rec room, watching VHS porn, as they commiserate over girls’ photos in the yearbook). Unfortunately the story—about an accidental killing that the boys cover up, and the growing division between them—is such an indie-cinema chestnut that its familiarity tends to overshadow Phillips’s careful cultural notation, and the movie drifts further into mystery convention as it goes along. Owen Campbell and Charlie Tahan are persuasively ordinary as the two pals central to the action, though the plot supposes a level of psychopathology neither of them can quite summon. For a more acute and terrifying response to Columbine, see Ben Coccio’s forgotten indie Zero Day (2003).