Summer of 84
summer of 84 | François Simard | anouk whissell | yoann-karl whissell | matt leslie | stephen j. smith | graham verchere | judah lewis | caleb emery | drama | mystery | thriller | canada | united states | cory gruter-andrew | tiera skovbye | rich sommer | history
Film: Summer of 84
Director: François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell
Writer: Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith
Starring: Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis and Caleb Emery
As of late, it has been quite popular in the horror film genre to throwback to the 1980’s. It is one of the heydays for horror and with the popularity of works that go to the suburbs during these simpler times, it hard to see why not go back to it. The synopsis for this film is after suspecting that their police officer neighbor is a serial killer, a group of teenage friends spend their summer spying on him and gathering evidence, but as they get closer to discovering the truth, things get dangerous.
This was a film that I had been following as I heard about it at film festivals where it was doing great. I actually even wrote an article about it earlier this year as it had been picked up by another festival and had won awards by that time. This film does have a feel of something like Stranger Things. We are in a suburb in Oregon in the of course, the summer of 1984. Our main character is Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere). He has a paper route, which I think is strategically used to introduce us to the neighborhood. We also meet the local police officer, Wayne Mackey (Rich Sommer). He seems like a nice guy and is quite friendly with Davey.
It establishes that Davey is constantly seeking adventures. He is really into the rag magazines that tell crazy stories about Bigfoot, Aliens and things to this effect. I thought this was a solid concept to establish, as we get the ‘boy who cried wolf’ aspect. Davey has a group of friends that he constantly hanging out with. Tommy ‘Eats’ Eaton (Judah Lewis) is the bad boy of the group. Dale ‘Woody’ Woodworth (Caleb Emery) is the heavy kid and Curtis Farraday (Cory Gruter-Andrew) is the nerdy kid. They have walkie talkies to keep in touch while also having a tree house that they hang out in.
When the news breaks that there is a serial killer in their area, Davey immediately thinks it is Wayne. He has good reason though. While they are playing a game of ‘Manhunt’, which is pretty much hide-and-seek, but outside with flashlights. He sees a boy in Wayne’s living room with him. Davey then sees the boy on the back of a milk carton as missing. Wayne uses the excuse that it is his nephew, but he had established that he has no family that lives close. Davey ropes his friends into helping him spy and look for evidence to prove his idea.
Going along with this, something that I loved about this film is the façade that is suburbia. Eats and Woody both have moments where they ask another friend if they can stay over, because there are problems at home. There is also the pretty girl, Nikki Kaszuba (Tiera Skovbye), who lives across the street from Davey. Her parents are getting divorced and it makes her feel alone in the world. She used to babysit Davey a few years ago so she is slightly older. She is getting ready to head off to college, but she seeks solace with Davey during her time in their town. He has a huge crush on her.
Now the only issue I really had with the film is that there is an aspect that is a little too convenient for my liking. It isn’t revealed until the start of the climax of the film, but I thought that it was a tad lazy. I also kind of felt that what was found right before this was a little bit too obvious. I’m not sure this would be left behind like it was. I also kind of wish that a couple more adults would have been fleshed out or a red herring tossed into this one as well. It just feels that you know what is eventually coming. It doesn’t ruin the film, but it did hurt it slightly.
This film though is paced very well. The directing crew of François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell did an excellent job of building the tension from the beginning. There is a jump-scare when Davey is helping Wayne and it is so natural. It also is harkened back to later in the film. That is really the best thing I can say about this film. The story and the tension build so naturally. It really got my heart racing. I also have to say that I absolutely loved the ending of the film as well. I didn’t see it coming and it is pretty bleak. Not only that, but we get the mirror image of the first sequence with a much darker look.
The acting in this film was something else that was pretty amazing. Verchere seems to be the character he is playing. I’m not as into conspiracies as he is, but I mean if someone starts to tell me a wild tale, I’ll listen. I found his character to be quite natural and the urges of a teen his age. His friends are all really good as well. They are unique, in part to keep them separated, but I could also see them being friends due to living so close and just stayed this way as they grew up. I did feel that Skovbye’s character isn’t really needed in the film, but I thought she did good. She is also quite attractive. Sommer was also really good in his role in the film as well.
There’s not a lot in the way of effects for the film, but the ones that are used were good. There is a scene at the end that was absolutely amazing. It looked so real and it made my jaw drop. The reveal also had an effect that I think was practical. I was a big fan of this. This really helped the film in my opinion.
The score of the film was amazing. It really embodied the 1980’s with the synth-style music. It felt like a soundtrack from the era. Not only did it fit the time period, it also fit the scenes. It would help to get my heart going when the tension was building. I would actually consider getting this soundtrack to listen to when I’m writing. It was that good of a score.
Now with that said, I really liked this film. I can see why it was doing so well at the film festival circuit. The story is more than just a mystery. The characters that are built are real and what is hidden behind the doors of the suburb life is great. I thought the acting really helps to bring this to life. On top of that the film is paced great. It builds tension throughout and the score helps with this. It also feels like it is from the era that it was set, which definitely was a perk. The effects were limited, but I thought that was a good thing. The ones used looked quite real. I would definitely recommend giving this one a viewing as I thought this film was great.
My Rating: 9 out of 10