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Summer of 84 (2018) - Movie Review

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Summer of 84 - Movie Review

4 stars

Having lived there before, the suburbs are where the craziest of the crazy hide. You already suspect this.  I do, too.  Summer of 84, with a killer third act, is the confirmation we needed.  There’s a chance, after watching this flick, that you won’t be able to look at your neighbors in the same way. Effective and familiar, this nostalgic film, heavy with the 1980s vibes, is an enjoyable bike ride through the recent past as a group of sleuthing teens brush up on The Hardy Boys in the search for a serial killer.

There is something foul-smelling hidden within the smooth pockets of suburbia.  Everything looks normal and at peace there, with clean lawns and houses with snappy curb appeal as its gatekeepers, but the truth – as paperboy Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere) suspects – is far darker.  If The Goonies went in search of a child killer instead of One-Eyed Willie’s stolen treasure, the result would be this dark-themed flick of family and dysfunction.

"this Reagan-era slice of horror is far from the wholesome image its President is remembered for.  This movie is actually a grisly wakeup call for American history."


Everything here is a façade, he narrates and, as he bicycles into a crisp neighborhood of cheery neighbors slinging papers with skill, he begins this movie with an ominous warning for us all to be careful where we go digging.  It is obvious that Davey has learned this the hard way and this movie, Summer of 84, is the result.  Turns out, we should ALL be aware of exactly where we go poking around. 

Directors Anouk Whissell, François Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissell return with another throwback film that echoes through the 1980s underground output of cinematic adventures.  We have a group of similar teenagers - think Neon Demons - involved in a large scale mystery in their neighborhood - like in The Burbs - and it goes dark with its coming-of-age attitudes - like in Stand By Me.  The team’s last effort, Turbo Kid, was absolutely LIT with gonzo swagger as kid's adventures got special treatment but here, with more of a straight-laced approach to the teenaged adventures, they point their blasters toward our own remembrances.

Summer of 84 is the dark nephew of Stranger Things.  It is nostalgic and fun and Le Matos absolutely delivers a memorable electronic score but it is also familiar as its characters (all with domestic issues which need a bit more addressing to resonate) aren't allowed the kind of on-screen growth we actually need and want.  To separate itself from the other nostalgic nods stands the fact that it is willing to kill off some of its characters.  I doubt Stranger Things would EVER do that.  For that reason, this film earns some bonus points from me.

Had Summer of 84 appeared three or four years ago, it might be the victor in the battle between it and Stranger Things, but this film’s fate as a follower is solidified.  Even if the film secured its funding due to the success of the Netflix show, the differences are saved until the final arc of the picture.  It is damn unsettling. It should also be noted that its clone status doesn’t stop it from being clever with its nods to other slasher flicks from the same era.

You see, Davey has a theory about all the missing kids in the community.  He reads about them in the newspapers he delivers and, as his parents work the fringes to preserve his innocence, the threat of the Cape May Strangler grows nearer and nearer.  Even Davey’s commonly known friends – Eats (Judah Lewis), Woody (Caleb Emery), and Farraday (Cory Gruter-Andrew) – are aware of the darkness that descends upon the town when the lights turn low.  However, none of that – at least at the film’s beginning – eclipses the fascination of Davey’s neighbor, Nikki (Tiera Skovbye).  She’s all they care about.  For good reason, too.  Nikki, as the girl next door, is certainly a looker.Summer of 84 - Movie Review

And their obsession turns to envy as Nikki and Davey start spending time together.  Soon, she’s involved in the hunt for the serial killer.  Even if she disagrees with Davey’s suspicions that it is a prominent member of the neighborhood, she joins the rest of the boys in bucking logic on midnight walk-talkie runs.  With Mad Men’s Rich Sommer also in the cast, this Reagan-era slice of horror is far from the wholesome image its President is remembered for.  This movie is actually a grisly wakeup call for American history. 

Things were not okay back in the Summer of 84 and, no, the kids, as a result, are not alright. Summer of 84 is now available on certain VOD platforms and in a current limited run in theaters.

Summer of 84 - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
105 mins
Director
: François Simard, Anouk Whissell
Writer:
Matt Leslie, Stephen J. Smith
Cast:
Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery
Genre
: Drama | Mystery
Tagline:
A film by RKSS
Memorable Movie Quote: "Huh, a better view of my room than I thought."
Theatrical Distributor:
Gunpowder & Sky
Official Site: www.facebook.com/summerof84movie/
Release Date:
August 10, 2018
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
 
Synopsis: Every serial killer is somebody’s neighbor. For 15-year-old Davey, the thought of having a serial killer in his suburban town is a scary yet exciting prospect at the start of a lazy summer. In hormonal overdrive, Davey and his friends dream of sexual conquests until the news reports of the Cape May killer. Davey convinces his friends that they must investigate, and they uncover that his next-door neighbor, an unassuming, single police officer, could be the prime suspect. Could Davey possibly be right, or is it his overactive imagination?

Summer of 84 - Movie Review

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Summer of 84 - Movie Review

 

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