Fantasia 2018 Interview: RKSS Reminisces Over Great Classic Horrors While Discussing SUMMER OF ’84
RKSS (Roadkill Superstar), François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell has 80s knowledge mixed with childlike imagination. Check out our interview with them where we discuss the makings of their new thriller horror Summer of 84.
“Summer, 1984: The perfect time to be 15 years old and carefree. But when neighborhood conspiracy theorist Davey Armstrong begins to suspect his police officer neighbor might be the serial killer all over the local news, he and his three best friends begin an investigation that soon turns dangerous.”
Summer of 84 is scheduled for limited release in theaters in the US on August 10, 2018 and will be available on VOD & Digital HD on August 24, 2018. The cast includes Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Cory Grüter-Andrew, Tiera Skovbye, and Rich Sommer.
Dread Central: I wanted to dive right in to talking about Summer of 84; but first, there is something that I need to know. I heard that you guys are gamers. I got super excited when I heard this because just a few weeks ago, I found that my husband had never played Contra before. I looked at him like, who did I marry. So I had to go retro and play the game with him. Then when I found out that you guys were gamers, I said I need to know everything. How did the gaming life start for you? What’s your favorite video game? What’s your top three?
RKSS – Yoann-Karyl Whissell: That’s a tough question
RKSS – Anouk Whissell: Yoann is my older brother and he received the old Nintendo when it came out – for his birthday. I played second because I was really young. So I always associate myself with Luigi because of that. I was always second player, so I have more love for Luigi than Mario.
RKSS – Francois Simard: We love all Zelda games. I’m a huge fan of Binding of Isaac. It’s a small indie game. I love everything that is retro, obviously. One thing is that we had to quit gaming to do Turbo Kid. That’s how bad… like we are so into gaming. We still play games, but we had put so much time into gaming that at some point – we just had to quit and focus on making movies.
RKSS – YW: We still play a ton of games.
RKSS – FS: (laughs) We just don’t play as much as we used to. It’s not taking over our lives.
DC: Understandable. Well, if I ever meet you guys, know that I am pretty awesome at Duck Hunt. So… you may lose. I hold my title with pride. Okay. Let’s talk about the name – RKSS – How did you guys come up with that?
RKSS – FS: It’s such a silly story. It’s short… simple. Roadkill Superstar was our technical name when we began. Actually, when our first short got into a short film festival, they asked us what would be our production name. We’re like, “Oh yeah, we need to come up with one.” So after a night of drinking, we came up with Roadkill Superstar, which we thought was funny.
RKSS – YW: it’s funny that it’s funny. It’s funny that we thought it was so funny. So it’s a joke on itself. You know, it’s what we are.
RKSS – FS: So since we got more serious and now we are doing major pictures, we decided to go with RKSS, which is a cleaner version.
RKSS – AW: And shorter.
DC: I really like the name. It’s very unique.
RKSS: Thank you.
DC: You’re very welcome. So let’s get into this hot movie. What can you tell us about Summer of ’84?
RKSS – YW: It’s a movie. (laughs)
RKSS – YW: It’s the first movie we directed that we didn’t write, which was definitely fun to do. But it felt like it was written for us anyway. It was built very like our childhood.
RKSS – AW: It’s very different from Turbo Kid. It’s grounded in reality.
RKSS – FS: It’s the story of a boy who suspects his neighbor to be a serial killer. So again, it’s totally different from anything we have done before. That’s why we’re always nervous.
DC: I felt it was going to be a cool movie then I saw the poster. It definitely gave me that 80s vibe, like Fright Night. It was seriously great. The cover alone is epic. I really love the cast as well. Did you guys know the actors you were going to cast right away?
RKSS – YW: No, but Rich Sommer was definitely somebody that we wanted for the role of Mackey. But for the rest of the cast, we had an open audition for almost two months. We interviewed a lot of kids until we found the perfect lead, Graham Verchere. Then when we had that kid that had that sensibility to be able to do the part, we built around him. But they were an amazing bunch of kids, like actually amazing. To work with them was so easy. We had such a great time. I was busy for that summer. I was a dad with four teenagers, which was important for us for the role of Mackey with Rich Sommer. He needs to be likable. That’s what we wanted. We wanted people to say, “No, he can’t be the killer. He’s Harry from Mad Men.” That’s why we ended up choosing Rich Sommer. He’s a huge geek like us. He loves board games, which is a plus.
DC: And how long did it take you guys to film it?
RKSS – YW: It was short. It is still a low budget indie. It was a short shoot. It was 22 days, which doesn’t sound so bad. The problem is we had a lot of night shoots. Since the kids are underage, the American kids can only work until midnight, and the Canadian kids can only work until two in the morning. We shot it in Vancouver, and it doesn’t get dark until 1030 at night. So we had very limited time for all the night shoots.
RKSS – FS: It was a real challenge. Very complicated.
RKSS – YW: But you know, three brains for the price of one.
RKSS – AW: We had a lot of different locations as well. That was something that also complicated the process of doing it in 22 days.
RKSS – YW: Yeah, we were moving a lot everywhere. We had days that we had to shoot more than 11 pages, which are big days for a movie.
DC: Wow! From what I noticed, it always looked like you guys had a blast filming it. I have to say that my favorite character was Eats. He is hilarious. (laughs) I laughed so hard that I drooled. Too much information… but it happened.
RKSS – YW: What’s great about all the kids is that they are at the age where you start swearing, but you don’t know really how to swear. So you overcompensate and you swear WAY too much.
DC: I’m curious about the year 1984?
RKSS – YW: Yeah. That’s when the summer stopped being safe. It was when crime started to appear in the summer and people started locking their doors and being paranoid of their neighbors. There was a shift – going from the 70s to the 80s – that suddenly that place that always felt safe was not safe anymore. You jump in that adventure with the kids and you feel safe because you see someone you know. But eventually, it’s not safe – when things get revealed.
RKSS – FS: When we received the project, there was nothing like that on the market. It was in 2015. It was all so different. It wasn’t about being trendy or looking for what’s in.
RKSS – YW: That moment in time. That moment in history. There was a shift and we wanted to get that story into that shift. We grew up in Canada, so that shift came a little bit later.
RKSS – AW: I was born in the early 80s. I remember my mom and my neighbors. My friends and I played at each other’s house. When we were coming back and it was late, I remember our parents were watching us coming down the street as we were going back home.
RKSS – YW: Yeah. Because from the beginning in the 80s, there were a lot of kidnappings starting to appear in the suburbs… also in the US. It was more in the news than anything. People were getting more scared, so it was important that we captured that moment.
DC: That’s understandable. I was feeling a little left out and confused because I was wondering why you guys didn’t pick a cooler year like ’87. That’s the year that I was born.
DC: I do have to say that I agree with you. I have not seen a movie like this before. I love the pace of the film and how other things are going on around the main story. You expect the story to go one way, but then it completely changes. I really love that and I think that people will be pleasantly surprised.
RKSS – FS: That’s exactly why we took the project.
RKSS – YW: That film took risks, and we wanted to take risks and push all the envelopes.
RKSS – FS: When the story was pitched to us, we were like, “Yeah. I love doing things about the 80s. It’s part of our childhood.” And then we heard the ending and we were like, “Yeah, we’re in. We’re doing that.” We knew that we would be set apart from the others because of the ending. People would remember it.
RKSS – YW: You know, life has real consequences.
DC: I agree. It does. I also have to talk about Turbo Kid while I have you guys. People lose their minds over this film. Personally, Apple and her gnome stick brightens up my day. There’s is just something about this movie that make us all go insane.
RKSS – FS: That’s why the sequel needs to be good. We receive tons of love… people getting tattoos. We really feel the pressure.
RKSS – YW: Yeah, we are putting a lot of pressure on ourselves.
RKSS – FS: That’s why we want to make sure that the storyline is the best it can be.
RKSS – YW: We owe it to everyone that loved the first one. We owe it to all the fans that the sequel needs to be better than the first one.
RKSS – FS: We can’t wait to visit our universe. It’s our baby.
RKSS – AW: We have a script and we are writing a new version just now.
RKSS – YW: We are still picking at it. We want it to be perfect. We have no choice.
DC: I’m sure it will be. Also I wanted to ask about Summer of 84’s soundtrack. It’s incredible. Do you guys ever have a hard time picking out music?
RKSS – YW: The music is from the same band that made the music for Turbo Kid. Some of the members are our best friends. Jean-Philippe and Jean-Nicolas, both of them in the band are like friends for over 15 years. Jean-Philippe is also the DP of the whole film – of Turbo Kid and Summer of 84. He’s there from the beginning of the project. So even before we are in prep or anything, we’re already sitting down with the script and already talking music. He’s part of the whole process and everything. It’s so much fun.
RKSS – FS: By the time he does the music, he knows the story by heart. For us it’s just like every time we receive a track, it’s like Christmas.
RKSS – YW: It’s a celebration.
RKSS – FS: It’s always spot on. We’re very lucky to have them and hopefully they will do all of our movies.
RKSS – YW: He better.
RKSS – FS: Otherwise, he’s not coming to my birthday. (laughs)
RKSS – YW: No. He’s like one of our best friends. He’s like the nicest guy in the world, and he’s insanely talented.
DC: He did an insanely great job with this one. I noticed that with some of your films, like with Summer of 84, you mentioned Joe Dante’s Gremlins. Well, you referenced it and Close Encounters. Are you guys horror fans. If so, do you have a favorite horror?
RKSS – YW: Yes. We are hardcore horror fans. Choosing our favorite horror film is almost like choosing one of your kids. You don’t want to forget one of them. I’d say John Carpenter’s The Thing is probably my favorite horror film.
RKSS – AW: I wanted to say The Thing. Now I have to find a new one. (laughs)
RKSS – YW: Well, I’ll give you The Thing. I really like American Werewolf in London as well.
RKSS – FS: I like both of them, but I will go with Braindead by Peter Jackson because that’s the movie that I had that little spark. When I saw it I said, “Yeah. That’s what I want to do in life.”
DC: You guys picked incredible movies. Thank you for that. It’s always nice reminiscing over great classic horrors. Speaking of great horror, would you guys ever do a sequel for Summer of 84?
RKSS – YW: There is room to do it. I don’t know if it’s needed, but we could do it. There’s definitely multiple ideas that we could go into for the sequel for Summer. But at the same time, I’m not 100% sure that it would be needed. It stands on its own. The sequel would need to be really, really good and really perfect.
RKSS – FS: Again, it all depends on the success of the film.
DC: I do agree that there is room for a sequel, but it could end exactly where it is. Okay, so last question. What would you like people to take from this movie?
RKSS – YW: That growing up sucks. (laughs) Stay a kid for the rest of your life. Look. Do the adult things. You have to do the adult things. Pay your taxes. Go to work. Blah, blah, blah. But in your heart, stay a kid. Play video games. Watch movies. Go on the swing set from time to time. Like, stay a kid at heart because otherwise life sucks and it is too short. So just have fun and be at peace with everybody around you.
RKSS – AW: I hope they get entertained and they feel something.