Genre : Horror, Mystery
Country : Canada
Graham Verchere, Caleb Emery, Rich Sommer
Like plenty of other fans of genre films 2015’s Turbo Kid was constantly on my radar. Seemingly overnight this short for ABC’s of Death became the talk of the horror community. Directed by the Canadian trio of François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell (collectively known as RKSS) Turbo Kid promised to be a throwback to the cheapo sci-fi movies of the 80’s. Utilizing Canada’s natural environment, a killer synth soundtrack and practical effects Turbo Kid delivered in a way few other nostalgia-leaning movies have. Clearly having an affinity for a time when VHS was king RKSS returns to the 80’s. More specifically the Summer of ’84.
It’s the summer of 1984, the perfect time for 15-year-old to be a kid one last time. That is exactly what Davey Armstrong planned on doing until he saw something suspicious. Suspecting a local police officer of a string of murders Davey and his friends spend the summer investigating. But things take a turn for the dangerous as Davey and his friends uncover the truth about the Cape May Killer.
When Turbo Kid came out one of the most recognizable traits of the movie was how RKSS wore their influences on their sleeve. For Turbo Kid it was eclectic group of cult classics with R.O.T.O.R. and BMX Bandits being the most obvious. In Summer of ’84 the people behind RKSS try their hand at more familiar fare, the 80’s coming of age tale. And while Spielberg seems like the obvious route to go RKSS look to other 80’s classics for inspiration. A werewolf-less mix of Monster Squad, Silver Bullet and Stand by Me, Summer of ’84 nails the aesthetic and feel of those 80’s classics without feeling dependent on it. In fact, of these 80’s inspired films Summer of ’84 is one of the deeper tales. Like Stand by Me what starts as a lighthearted adventure becomes a look at growing up and the hardships and horror unique to suburbia. And just like The Goonies a huge reason Summer of ’84 works is the cast assembled.
Like all classic coming-of-age stories Summer of ’84 is led by a quartet of endearing teenage boys. And while each of them fills a certain niche each feel like real people thanks to the glances we get at their home life. Home lives that, no matter how bad they get, disappear as these friends get together. Sharing a real sense of comradery and chemistry their investigation into the Cape May Killer is led by Davey, portrayed by Graham Verchere. Obsessed with conspiracy theories he has is like Fox Mulder if he were one of the Goonies. By his side is best friend Woody, played by Caleb Emery. As good as the other actors are the chemistry Woody shares with Davey feels the most real. Another stand out performance comes from Rich Sommer as Officer Wayne Mackey. As Davey’s main suspect he straddles the line between good and evil beautifully and will have you guessing until the end.
While some trends come and go 80’s nostalgia always seems to be in vogue. Whether it’s a hit series like Stranger Things or smaller fare such as slasher homage Lost After Dark the 80’s will always have a place in pop culture. And few creators get this quite like RKSS. With a love for the time period this trio are able to replicate the style without outright repeating it. Aside from some pacing issues Summer of ’84 is able to find its own voice delivering a clever game of cat-and-mouse that delivers more than one shocking twist.