One of the most anticipated genre films of the year, SUMMER OF ‘84 is the second film from François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell. Known collectively as RKSS (RoadKill SuperStars), they’re the trio that gave us TURBO KID. Like their previous effort, this one is also an exercise in nostalgia, this time it’s by way of setting as well as tone. Nostalgia is also about all they have in common, this is a much darker tale concerning a serial killer preying on young boys.
Davey (Graham Verchere) is a 15-year-old paperboy and conspiracy theorist. He’s convinced that his neighbor, well-respected police officer Wayne Mackey (Rich Sommer MAD MEN, GLOW) is the Cape May Slayer, a serial killer preying on young boys. Enlisting his buddies Eats” (Judah Lewis THE BABYSITTER), “Woody” (Caleb Emery GOOSEBUMPS) Curtis (Cory Gruter-Andrew) and eventually, Nikki (Tiera Skovbye EVEN LAMBS HAVE TEETH, RIVERDALE) Davey’s former babysitter turned girlfriend he sets out to prove it. But can they catch the killer before he catches onto them?
Another difference between SUMMER OF ‘84 and TURBO KID is this time they’re working from somebody else’s (Matt Leslie, Stephen J. Smith) script. The different and darker perspective makes the film a more risky choice as a followup. However, it also lets them prove their range, at least to the degree the film succeeds. Thankfully it mostly hits the mark.
The recreation of the early 1980s works nicely focused more on the little details. Things like furniture, wood paneling and regular clothes and cars. It’s more realistic than the usual collage of pop culture, muscle cars or the popular brands we all wanted to be seen wearing. It makes for a convincing backdrop for those who remember the era.
The group of friends, while all well acted, are a bit of a problem. It’s the same, generic group we see in almost every film like this. The “normal” kid, the fat one, the nerd, etc. And the way Nikki the “hot girl” gets involved is a pretty unbelievable dose of wish fulfillment. But, it is what it is, and we get an enjoyable, darker take on THE GOONIES, with elements of REAR WINDOW, STRANGER THINGS and a biography of John Wayne Gacy thrown in.
The film’s final act will stir up a lot of mixed reactions. While the film is fairly dark, where it goes in the last half hour or so caught me well off guard. Genre fans will undoubtedly have seen much grimmer stuff but considering what has come before it’s quite shocking and almost feels out of place. It worked for me, but others may feel differently.
SUMMER OF ‘84 is currently available on VOD from Gunpowder & Sky