Who doesn’t love a horror movie set in the 80s? Alright, the decade in which a movie is set doesn’t automatically make it great. Still, it usually adds a little something, at least to me. Summer of 84 is a horror-mystery film that was directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell. It premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2018.
In the summer of 1984, Cape May, is plagued by the “Cape May Slayer”. This prolific serial killer is responsible for the disappearances of thirteen teenage boys in the county over the decade prior.
Summer of 84 focuses on Fifteen-year-old Davey Armstrong and his friends Dale “Woody” Woodworth, Curtis Farraday, and Tommy “Eats” Eaton. It’s summer vacation and like most kids their age, they’re bored. There are only so many days they can spend looking at nudie magazines in a treehouse.
Davey begins to become suspicious that his neighbour Wayne Mackey, a popular police officer, is the Cape May Slayer. Initially, the other boys reject his theory on account of Davey’s obsession with urban legends. However, when a boy Davey sees inside Mackey’s house appears on the back of a milk carton days later, they agree to help him investigate.
The boys document Mackey’s daily routine and discover many suspicious activities. Mackey regularly purchases gardening tools and bags of soil. He brings a duffel bag to work every day, and goes on routine late-night jogs. One night, when the friends stake out Mackey’s house, he witnesses Davey plant a walkie-talkie outside his window, leaving Davey worried that he is becoming suspicious.
Later, Woody and Farraday discover a second vehicle and canisters of sodium hydroxide in a self-storage room owned by Mackey, and Davey and Eats discover the bloodstained shirt of the missing boy, hidden in Mackey’s garden shed.
Are they right about Mackey? Or is there something more to this mystery? Check out Summer of 84 to find out.
Summer of 84 ticks the box on every single 80s film/horror movie trope that you’ve ever seen. The four boys each have their very own cliché character. There’s the chubby kid, the cool yet troubled kid, the nerdy kid and so on. It’s clearly inspired by similar films such as; The Goonies, The Monster Squad, Stranger Things etc. If you’ve seen any of them then the rapport between the characters will feel very familiar. There is plenty of banter between them, mostly about someone’s mother and having relations with said mother.
Thankfully, the group of boys are very likeable. They share a number of amusing moments and their dialogue is very well written. However, having not grown up in suburban American I’ll never know if this is actually how boys of that age speak.
The murder mystery in Summer of 84 manages to hit every trope as well. Still, it’s executed in an enjoyable way and had me unsure of how it would unfold.
The finale will likely be the most divisive aspect of Summer of 84. Instead of going for some kind of twist, it plays it surprisingly straight. In this way it helps it stand apart from others similar to it. However, it’s really down to each individual as to whether it is good or bad. I was mostly satisfied by the conclusion. Still, mysteries centred on the “who dunnit” premise require more than a few red herrings to be truly enticing. Summer of 84 offers very little in this regard which is disappointing.
Also, the final few scenes are a massive tonal shift on what had come before it. The whole film takes a very dark turn. To say it ends in an unhappy way would be a huge understatement. Some may hate this direction but I absolutely loved it. It’s very brave and I appreciate it for that, I would certainly be interested in a continuation.
Overall, Summer of 84 may feel like a rip off of every other 80s film in a similar vein. However, to me it came across more like a love letter to that era similar to Stranger Things. The tropes are so on the nose, that had to be the intention. It’s a fun nostalgic throwback with a kickass synthwave soundtrack included.
Summer of 84