THE STORY – Teenager Davey Armstrong is a conspiracy theorist who begins to suspect that a neighboring police officer is a serial killer. With help from three friends, Davey launches a daring investigation that soon turns dangerous.
THE CAST – Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Tiera Skovbye & Rich Sommer
THE TEAM – François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell (Directors), Matt Leslie & Stephen J. Smith (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 105 Minutes
By Will Mavity
Imagine if you took “Stranger Things” but cut the budget down, removed the stylish filmmaking and humor, and made it really dark and mean-spirited. Congratulations. You now have “Summer Of ’84.”
Set in the 1980s, Davey (Graham Verchere) becomes convinced that his neighbor, a respected police officer is secretly a serial killer, preying on young boys. When the adults prove uninterested in his theories, he ropes his friends in for some amateur sleuthing, and soon finds his life in danger.
The film is essentially “Disturbia,” or any other “my neighbor is a serial killer” movie but shifted into the 1980s. Here you have your usual set of stereotypical teen characters from any vintage horror film. The straight shooter, the nerd, the burnout, the chubby one. It’s the same type of crew we’ve seen in the last year in “IT” and “Stranger Things.” Vintage 80s teen horror is back “in.” As is synth music. But filmmakers, François Simard, Anouk Whissell & Yoann-Karl Whissell seem to have taken only the most superficial lessons from what made those other successful efforts work. People didn’t flock to “IT,” just because it was a horror film set in the 80s. They went because it offered ample world building, and featured a cast of richly drawn teenage characters, portrayed by talented child actors along with wit and humor in abundance. The same goes for “Stranger Things.” Meanwhile, “Summer of ‘84” features the occasional penis joke but it’s never really funny. It just feels as though the filmmakers are attempting to recreate childhood crudeness. Nor is there any message about childhood friendship. The film never gets deep enough into its characters to care about that. In fact, it borders on being mean-spirited in its treatment towards them. At the same time, the film is unwilling to ever become genuinely scary. Sure, there is the occasional jump scare. But if the film was aiming for straight horror, it never succeeds there either.
Then, there’s the central mystery to the film. Is my neighbor a serial killer or not? Like with “My Bloody Valentine 3D,” the answer is abundantly obvious from the very first scenes. If your main play is going to be nostalgia, at least make the central antagonist somewhat intriguing. Give the audience some mystery. A monster clown, a telekinetic super child, a government creature escaped from a lab (“Super 8”), a buried treasure (“The Goonies”). A serial killer is just generic, especially when it is abundantly clear who the serial killer is.
Sure, there are some positive aspects. The synth score is catchy. There’s a nifty blood effect at the end which is sure to please gore-hounds. Cinematographer Jean-Philippe Bernier lenses the film effectively, giving some genuinely spooky images (An overhead shot of boys running with flashlights is particularly effective). And occasionally, the nostalgia works. But generally, it’s just bland, not particularly funny but also not particularly scary. It simply exists. And while doing so, it reminds us of the many films that have done this exact same genre before but even better.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Features solid music and cinematography. And who doesn’t love a bit of nostalgia?
THE BAD –Not particularly funny, or scary, or touching, or memorable. It is the definition of the bare minimum.
THE FINAL SCORE – 4/10