Oct 16, 2018
He’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! This Takeover Tuesday, we welcome back Andrew Campbell. I’m super jealous he was able to attend Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX this year, where he saw a bunch of films that most of us won’t see for the next few months. While today’s review isn’t one of those films, I suspect this won’t be the last we’ll hear from him. Unless you see him on a milk carton or something.
You can catch him on Twitter @anrcampbell for daily reviews and commentary. Oh, by the way Andrew, about that rating... I see what you did there. Very clever.
Here we go!
Andrew here; glad to back on the podcast. I previously reviewed “Terminal” (2018)on Episode 247, but this time I am happy to be here talking about a much better film; one that you may not be familiar with and that I hope you will check out as out Halloween approaches.
Without further ado...
Today’s movie is “Summer of ‘84” (2018), the film written by Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith, and directed by Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell. Okay, that is a lot of directors, which may seem like a bad sign, but stick with me here. The film follows 15-year-old Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere) and his three best friends as they grow to suspect that their police officer neighbor, Mr. Mackey (Rich Sommer), is the serial killer that has been targeting teenage boys in nearby towns over the past decade. Tension grows as evidence begins to mount and the group confronts the question “What do we if we’re right?”.
“Summer of ‘84” (2018) has a lot going for it. The core group of teens are all decent actors with the lead being the most charismatic of the bunch - his slight lisp reminding you he is still just a kid in spite of the dark turns the film is about to take. The script is economical in quickly conveying the rapport among the boys and establishing them as four distinct individuals. Rich Sommer is the only actor viewers may recognize, playing a character similar to the amiable Harry Crane he portrayed on “Mad Men”, albeit with an undercurrent suggesting he may have a darker side. An excellent score sets the tone from the opening credits and the use of period music is well-executed. There is a long list of “My neighbor might be a murderer” movies – “Rear Window” and “The ‘Burbs” being two of the more beloved examples – but “Summer of ‘84” (2018) treads new ground while maintaining high tension for one hundred very short minutes.
The dialogue and mounting suspense are what make this film such a joy, but I found it does break down a bit upon repeat viewing. If your interest has been piqued, you may want to jump before I nitpick a film that I adored upon first viewing. The problems aren’t major, but there are several issues that may show the film-makers’ inexperience; or perhaps the issues are a product of having multiple directors. There is a brief scene where two cars nearly collide - it feels like they forgot to shoot the footage and put in a still image as a placeholder for the action shot. Later, a scene where a group of children take a break from throwing a ball around at a close distance (picture the guys tossing around a football in “The Room”, only younger). They grab a popsicle from the vaguely sinister Mr. Mackie and it feels like a scene out of an elementary school play. A larger problem is that two of the boys come from troubled homes (one whose parents never stop fighting; the other having to take care of his depressive alcoholic mother) and it feels like the screenwriters are trying to give them the same character arc, yet by the end manages to bring closure to neither. Oh, and by the end credits you’re going to be sick to death of the word “manhunt” – the game of hide-and-seek that recurs throughout the film.
Putting my minor grievances aside, this is the rare low-budget suspense thriller that is more than just a one-note story with a mildly original premise. The film really sticks the landing with several punctuated turns toward the end just when you’re thinking it might fizzle out. I managed to catch this one in a fairly busy showing during its incredibly brief theatrical run which certainly heightened my enjoyment, but save this film to watch with a friend because you are going to want to discuss the directors’ choices surrounding the excellent conclusion.
“Summer of ‘84” (2018) is a refreshing genre film set in a time period that amplifies the story. The characters could have easily walked out of a straight coming-of-age tale rather than a suspense film, which creates an unexpectedly strong emotional investment in what may look like a forgettable film on its surface. Fans of films like The Goonies and Disturbia will enjoy this one.
Rotten Tomatoes: 66%
One Movie Punch: 8.4/10
“Summer of ‘84” (2018) is not rated. It is currently available for paid rental on all major platforms and will be streaming on Shudder starting October 25th- just in time for Halloween.
Thanks for listening to my Takeover Tuesday review. For your chance to contribute head over to onemoviepunch.com for more information. Follow me on Twitter @anrcampbell for my daily reviews. I recently attended Fantastic Fest here in Austin, which I cannot recommend highly enough for fans of genre films that want to discover unique cinematic experiences. I hope to bring some more reviews your way in the near future as these gems from the world over gain theatrical distribution and become available on streaming services.