1980’s nostalgia, so hot right now! With Stranger Things and It leading the way recently, tapping into my generation’s childhood is becoming increasingly common and profitable. For the most part, I’m okay with it if they do it well. Summer of 84 looks to be the latest film to join the fray.
Even with the year in the title, Summer of 84 doesn’t hit you over the head with the setting. The film keeps it mostly to the background and isn’t continuously and overtly referenced. With some changes to the color grading, you could probably replicate how films looked at the time and not even realize you are watching a modern movie.
Besides the looks and the setting, even the story feels like a throwback. A group of kids on a mission. All have their different personalities, different family situations, and different reactions and plans for the task at hand. Some might find them a little archetypal. However, I almost found it fit in with the 80’s theme. The mission the group chooses to accept is to determine whether Davey’s (group leader) neighbor, a cop, moonlights as a serial killer. The way the kids are surveilling and tracking Mackey, the aforementioned police officer, isn’t very far from antics my friends and I would have done to pass the time.
Twists and turns abound as the audience’s perception of whether Mackey is the killer continuously shifts. Would someone who has evaded detection for some many years become so sloppy? Even with some inconsistencies and holes, the story is engaging. At least enough to continually capture your attention and see what ends up happening to the kids.
The acting from the kids was genuine and probably one of the better surprises. It’s also commendable when they all look their stated age. We’ve all seen some modern films which insist on using twenty-somethings to pass as a freshman. But this only makes their acting all the more enjoyable. Rich Sommer (as Mackey) was similarly solid as were the rest of the adults.
So the setting, story, characters, actors, and everything is seemingly great, right? Here I was thinking I was watching something fun and heartwarming, maybe even going for a Gooniesque type ending where everything works out. Well, the third act decides to throw the tone of the film right out the window. It’s such a drastic change that it almost feels like you’ve started watching a different movie. I realize the plot is finding a serial killer and things could get dark, however, with the changeup, it reminded me that I’m watching a film from 2018 and no longer transported back to the movies I grew up watching. I would not be surprised if some loved the shift, I may have too if it wasn’t so drastic and more of the latter was peppered in throughout.
Summer of 84 Overall: 3.5/5
In the end, I still enjoyed my time with Summer of 84. The film has a lot going for it, and I could see it becoming a small cult hit. Being destined to go into rotation during everyone’s October marathons is not a terrible fate. You could certainly do worse. Summer of 84 is still making its theatrical rounds and will be available On Demand soon.