If you think that the ‘gang of friends in the 80s’ trope is overdone – think again. Anouk Whissell, François Simard and Yoann-Karl Whissell’s Summer of 84 is one of the best horror films I’ve seen this year. With the first two captivating acts twisting and turning their way to the final chapter, the climactic build-up pays off, delivering a violent, shocking end that feels like a gut-punch.
Shows such as Stranger Things paved the way for an 80s nostalgia explosion that has infected the mainstream with cliché references and an abundance of synth-filled soundtracks. The show is up-in-your-face with the references, constantly reminding audiences: “HEY, YOU, REMEMBER HOW AWESOME THE 80s WERE?!” Conversely, whilst Andy and Barbara Muschietti’s IT reboot toed the line between a nostalgia-fest and cheese fondue, it paid off to critical acclaim and box office success. Summer of 84 also toes this line without being too cheesy; the only explicit reference to the 80s (aside from the setting) is found in the form of a short scene where Ronald Reagan graces the presence of a family’s television and prompts them to say a few words about the Cold War.
On the technical side of things, the witty writing is executed perfectly by the cast, making their performances believable. The camerawork is meticulous, with angles being used cleverly and edited pleasingly, allowing dialogue to flow effortlessly between the cast members. Their dynamic brings inevitable yet permissible echoes of Stand By Me and The Goonies. The soundtrack by Le Matos fits the nostalgic journey perfectly, filling your ears with humming synths and a rumbling bass line that pushes you to the edge of your seat.
Without spoiling the plot, we can delve into the eventful story line: teenager Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere) is convinced that a serial killer is living in his uneventful, suburban town. He convinces his gang to help him hunt down the suspected killer. The twists and turns in the story don’t let the pace falter until the violent final act. My jaw dropped throughout the whole final half hour, and I wasn’t the only one – I was surrounded by the noise of other audience members gasping too. The wait through the initial build up pays off, arriving at a point where every minute deals a different blow, and you still smile through the tears because it’s delightfully twisted.
Summer of 84 stuck with me for days after I saw it and almost made me wish I’d been born in a white American suburb in the 80s with a serial killer living next door. Almost.
Summer of 84 was shown at Grimmfest 2018. It is available to stream on Amazon Prime.