My History With the Film:
I first heard about Summer of ’84 sometime in late 2017 or early 2018. The title caught my eye and after watching the trailer I was intrigued. I love these modern stories set in the 80’s (IT, Stranger Things, Super 8) and Summer of ’84 seemed to be out to capture that same tone of innocence and exploration that its predecessors did.
Summer of ’84 received a very limited theatrical release, but made its way to Shudder rather quickly. I had planned on watching it before the holidays, but if I’m honest, I was burned out on horror. I watched so much horror over Halloween that I just needed a few months to regroup and watch something different. Earlier this week, I sat down to give Summer of ’84 a shot and when it was all over I sat stunned at how brilliant it was.
What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
After a string of teenage boys are murdered, a teenager and his friends begin to suspect a local police officer is behind it all.
What I Liked About It:
-The 80’s setting was wonderfully created and used to its full potential. I think sometimes storytellers use the 80’s and 90’s as a setting just because, and it doesn’t serve a real purpose. In the case of Summer of ’84, the 80’s provided the perfect backdrop to tell this story. Had it been set it in modern times, it would not have been near as effective and technology would have ruined a lot of it.
-The music is absolutely wonderful. After finishing the movie, I immediately added the soundtrack to my Synthwave playlist and I listened to it the following morning on my way to work. It’s a perfect synth blend that feels a lot like John Carpenter meets the soundtrack of Phantasm and Psycho.
-The casting was amazing in almost every way. The child actors knocked it out of the park, every single one of them. You truly believed they were all friends and it was almost like being welcomed into their own little world. The adult actors were also great with Rich Sommer (Wayne Mackey) putting on a memorable performance. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Sommer’s since Mad Men, but this is by far the best role I’ve ever seen him in.
-The slow burn in this film is amazing and the film keeps your attention with uncomfortable moments. You feel legit fear at times, and I love that! The one scene that blew me away ::SPOILERS:: is when Davey looks out the window with his binoculars and finds Mackey looking back at him. ::END SPOILERS:: That was frightening.
-I loved the relationship that everyone had with one another, especially Davey (Graham Verchere) and Nikki (Tiera Skovbye). They had some many incredible moments together, I especially loved what she did for him when she bumped into the guys checking on the house she was cat sitting.
-I expected them to blotch the ending. I don’t know why, but I just assumed it would be some generic ending that would leave me feeling unsatisfied. Instead, they went all in and I sat there with a huge grin on my face and I loved every second of it. It was the most satisfied I’ve been watching the end of a movie in a very, very long time.
-My favorite scene ::SPOILERS:: is when Davey realizes all the family pictures are actually pictures of his victims. My God did that disturb me in a wonderful way. ::END SPOILERS::
What I Didn't Like About It:
-The only weak spot I saw in this film was the casting of a single actor who played Davey’s dad. It’s not that he was terrible; he just felt a step below everyone else in the production. Looking over his IMDB page, it’s clear that he was not. I think maybe I just didn’t like how he portrayed the character. It just didn’t flow as well as everyone else.
-At the bowling alley you can see a cabinet with Polybius, a fictional arcade game that originated in an urban legend in the early 2000’s.
-There is a scene where the kids are all riding bikes while “Cruel Summer” by Banarama plays. This is done in the same positioning as the scene in The Karate Kid which was actually released in the summer of 1984.
-There are lots of other supposed nods/references to other 80’s properties, but I feel like a lot of them are reaching. I’m going to wait till I listen to the commentary before adding any of those additional notes.
I make no qualms about admitting that I feel like this film was made for me. Almost every element of the film seemed to cater to all the things I love about movies and want in movies. There was adventure, friends bonding, legit terror, some crazy “oh shit” moments, and a touch of romance. The music was incredible, the cast was excellent, and I just cannot say enough good things about this film. The moment it ended I went straight to Amazon and ordered a blu-ray. This is a must watch movie if I ever seen one.
I’m not sure where this movie will end up in my favorite movies of all-time, because you always need to a second watch and a few months before making that sort of assessment, but I have a feeling it’ll be breaking into my top fifteen. I loved this movie and it was the most fun I had watching a movie in quite some time.
Summer of ’84 is clearly a five out of five and a must own.