Entertainment » Movies

Summer of 84

by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Aug 10, 2018
'Summer of 84'
'Summer of 84'  

The '80s were one of the best times for movies. With George Lucas and Steven Spielberg leading the way, their protégés and mimickers churned out a plethora of movies that changed film and offered distinct ways of storytelling. One can look back and see how the fantasy and sci-fi movies of the '80s changed the course of moviemaking, but it wasn't just the genre films that dazzled the eyes. It was also the comedies and horror movies of the day. The styles of those films are still stolen, copied, and nodded to forty years later.

Co-directors Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell have come from that same school, although four decades later. Their cult hit "Turbo Kid" paid homage to the BMX and "Mad Max" movies that kids loved. With their latest, "Summer of 84," they pull together the slasher and Spielbergian-kids motifs and throw them together for an old-fashioned coming-of-age story with a terror-filled twist.

Somewhat slow-moving at first, "Summer of 84" follows a group of teenage friends during a summer where a serial killer is on the loose. When one of them suspects his neighbor might actually be the murderer, the four go about gathering evidence in order to prove they have a killer in their midst.

Written by new writers Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith, this is a simple film that is carefully told in a way that movies aren't nowadays. There isn't a lot of fancy editing, wall to wall pop music or intense jump scares. This is a thoughtful movie about how kids aren't taken seriously but might be the smartest ones in the room.

Davey (Graham Verchere) is the leader of the group. He's in love with his next-door neighbor Nikki (Tiera Skovbye) and is the first one to believe his neighbor cop Wayne Mackey ("Mad Men's" Rich Sommer) is the killer who has murdered thirteen teenage boys in surrounding towns. He gathers his buddies - trash-talkin' Tommy (Judah Lewis), nerdy Curtis (Cory Gruter-Andrew), and chubby worry-wart Woody (Caleb Emery) - to figure out if Mackey is as evil as he thinks he is.

The film slowly notches up the tension as we grow closer to the boys and their troubles. Tommy has problems with fighting parents at home, Davey isn't trusted by his parents, and all the boys obsess over Tiera. But when the real threat of a serial killer is unleashed, the boys band together to solve the mystery, never really believing they will be drawn into something truly life-threatening.

The trio of directors has gathered an exceptional cast of kids who are all believable and charming in their own ways. None of them feel like they've come from the Disney or Nickelodeon school of acting, reminding us of the original foursome from "Stand by Me." Sommer as Mackey does a terrific job at keeping us guessing as to whether he is or isn't the killer the boys suspect him to be, and Tiera proves she isn't just the "hot girl next door."

While some might think there isn't enough happening in the film or that it's too slow, this reviewer found it to be a welcome reminder of what movies used to be in the heyday of the blockbuster. If you look back at the films of the '80s, even movies like "Raiders of the Lost Ark" were slow compared to the wall-to-wall noise we now have with movies like "Transformers" and "Fast and the Furious." "Summer of 84" thankfully takes its time to establish characters we care about and want to spend time with. We go along for the ride, happy to investigate with the kids as they navigate growing up. Ultimately, when things get scary, we care; we worry, our hearts break, and we feel something. Some of this is rare in the plot and scare heavy films of late, which is why "Summer of 84" is so special.

With a limited release, it's unclear what sort of impact this film will have. For the younger crowd, it might be too much of a slow burn. But for the older folks, it will be a nostalgic reminder of when movies engaged our hearts and thrilled our senses in ways that made us believe all of this could happen to us. Add in the killer synth score by Le Matos and you have "Stranger Things" lite, which is pretty much what movies used to be in the '80s anyway.

Summer of 84

Teenager Davey Armstrong is a conspiracy theorist who begins to suspect that a neighboring police officer is a serial killer. With help from three friends, Davey launches a daring investigation that soon turns dangerous.


Runtime :: 106 mins
Release Date :: Aug 10, 2018
Language :: Silent
Country :: Canada

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.


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