‘Summer of 84’ Is A Terrifying And Nostalgic Serial Killer Film [Watch]
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Directorial collective RKSS Films (made up of François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell) made a name for themselves with their feature film debut Turbo Kid. But their sophomore effort Summer of 84 has gone somewhat overlooked. And that’s a shame, seeing as the flick is a suspenseful affair that serves up quality characters, a hefty dose of ‘80s nostalgia, and nail-biting suspense throughout. On that basis, Summer of 84 seems a very logical selection for The Overlooked Motel.
Similar to Cloak & Dagger, the film plays on the ‘boy who cried wolf’ trope. The action gets underway when Davey (Graham Verchere) begins to suspect there may be an active serial killer living next door. His friends initially assume this is just another one of Davey’s outrageous conspiracy theories. But Davey’s pals eventually start to wonder if their overly imaginative friend may be on to something. Armed with walkie-talkies and their BMX bikes, Davey and his playmates resolve to expose their neighbor and stop the killings before they wind up victims.
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Like a cousin to Stranger Things, the flick riffs on a bygone cinematic era where unsupervised minors roamed free to hunt for buried treasure, take on the evils of the big city, or fly to outer space. Helicopter parenting effectively killed that trend. But it remains a magical cinematic sweet spot for anyone that grew up on ‘80s movies. Accordingly, Summer of 84 is sure to appeal to anyone that cut their teeth on films like Explorers, Flight of the Navigator, or The Monster Squad.
In watching Summer of 84, it’s quite clear that the film was helmed by people raised on the cinematic efforts of a bygone era. The costuming, hairstyles, set design, and dialogue all invoke the essence of the ‘80s. Moreover, the flick even features bitchin’ cover art that looks like it would have been right at home on the shelf of a video rental store circa the mid-1980s.
Summer of 84, however, is more than just an exercise in nostalgia. The flick also has a great cast of characters. The camaraderie between the leads feels authentic. It reminds me of the dynamic I had with my friends in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Moreover, each of the teenage boys functions as more than a mere caricature. We get glimpses into their humanity that makes each of them relatable. We come to care about them because we’re given a reason to invest.
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In addition to relatable characters, the flick also delivers high levels of suspense. When the youthful protagonists come to suspect the killer is a local lawman that lives nearby, that realization creates an air of paranoia where no one can be trusted. And it fosters a dynamic where the boys have nowhere to turn. Who is going to believe a group of teenagers lobbing accusations at a decorated officer of the law?
Rich Sommer is a smart choice to play the lawman. He has a trustworthy face and a gentle way about him. Since we don’t get definitive answers regarding his intentions until closer to the third act, I found myself going back and forth regarding his guilt or innocence. There’s an ‘is he, or isn’t he?’ dynamic that keeps the viewer on their toes and serves to enhance the palpable sense of tension.
Adding to the ever-present dread is a series of close calls and cat-and-mouse chase sequences that see the youngsters running afoul of a killer. An intense (and period-appropriate) synth score, a series of smartly placed jump scares, and frenetic editing serve to ratchet up the tension, making the viewing experience all the more engrossing.
In short, Summer of 84 is a nostalgic throwback to a time when children roamed free with minimal interference from parental figures. The flick serves up high levels of tension and a solid ensemble cast. If you’re game to check Summer of 84 out for yourself, you can stream it on Shudder as of the publication of this post.
That’s all for this installment of The Overlooked Motel. If you want to chat more about under-seen and underrated films, feel free to hit me up with your thoughts on Twitter @FunWithHorror!
Categorized: Editorials The Overlook Motel