It is 2018 and it seems that the ’80s are in full swing! Nostalgia has hit every form of entertainment, from shows and film to the resurgence of retro games. Netflix’s Stranger Things helped fuel the nostalgic trend and made us all yearn for the simpler days of walkie-talkies and riding our bikes until dinnertime. While Summer of ’84 is perhaps coming in on that Stranger Things wave, the film still does things its own way.

Directors François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell make up RKSS Films, which brought us the fantastic 2015 film Turbo Kid. It is seriously underrated and well done (and getting a sequel!), so I was excited to see Summer of ’84 on the lineup for the Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) this year. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in January.

Summer of '84
Summer of ’84: Caleb Emery, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Judah Lewis, and Graham Verchere

As suggested by the title, it takes place in the summer of 1984 in Suburbia, America and follows five teens, each a typical film cliché. Squad leader Davey (Graham Verchere: Fargo TV series) is an All-American kid who happens to have an obsession with conspiracies. He’s joined by his faithful boobs-obsessed sidekick, Dale (Caleb Emery: American Vandal), brainy/nerdy kid Curtis (Cory Gruter-Andrew: Anne TV series), and leather-clad bad boy Tommy (Judah Lewis: The Babysitter). Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without the hot girl next door, Nikki (Tiera Skovbye: Riverdale), Davey’s former babysitter and object of his affection.

What should be a carefree summer quickly turns into anything but as the community discovers that a serial killer is on the loose within the county. Never one to turn down a good mystery or conspiracy, Davey starts to look into the case and thinks his neighbor, Wayne (Rich Sommer: GLOW) is the killer. He pulls his friends into the mix and the wannabe heroes start to investigate.

There are some issues I had with the film, mainly the dialogue. It did not feel natural at times because of how weighed down it is with ’80s pop culture references, “your mom” jokes, and the boys’ obsession with porn and sex that they aren’t yet having. Kids back in 1984 would certainly discuss these things (although, I’m unsure if mom jokes were in yet), but these three topics came up ad nauseam. It made everyone in the boys’ club almost one-dimensional, except Davey. It seemed like the writers tried to offset this by giving Tommy and Dale dramatic home lives (fighting, depressed single mom), but it just didn’t quite work.

Summer of ’84: Tiera Skovbye and Graham Verchere

That doesn’t mean these characters are unlikable, however. The actors had chemistry and witty moments, making you care just enough for the sake of the storyline. Speaking of the plot, it may not be totally original at its core (I couldn’t help but to think The Monster Squad meets The ‘Burbs), but where it really shined was at the end. It featured a truly dark ending that I did not see coming. I have to give kudos to the filmmakers for throwing that curveball at audiences and making it work. I won’t go into it for the sake of remaining spoiler-free, but it truly was the saving grace of the film and made the audience gasp. Myself included.

While it isn’t a perfect film, Summer of ’84 will please audiences looking for a fun summer slasher/whodunnit. The film will be released on August 3rd.

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