Hello, all! McEric here with a review of RKSS’s SUMMER OF 84, a nostalgia-seeped thriller that’s already swept through Sundance, Chicago’s Cinepocalypse Festival, and Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival. And as our summer comes to a close, it’s a perfect opportunity to enjoy one last adventure with our friends.
Check out the trailer:
The film centers around conspiracy-obsessed fifteen-year-old Davey Armstrong, his three buddies Eats, Woody, and Faraday, the hot girl-next-door Nikki (played by RIVERDALE’s Tiera Skovbye), and his neighbor across the way, Mr. Mackey (MAD MEN’s Rich Sommer), whom Davey has become convinced is a serial killer.
The film takes its time boiling up the suspense as the boys launch their own investigation with bicycles, flashlights, walkie-talkies, and the most effortless lock-picking skills I’ve ever seen. Seriously, were locks that easy to pick in the eighties? Sadly I didn’t become a delinquent until my 20s so I don’t have first-hand experience. Regardless, the film crescendos to a final act that offers a haunting ending along with voice-over narration that mirrors the film’s opening.
What SUMMER OF 84 does well, it does very well. The set pieces and performances are spot on, and several of the shots are master-classes in cinematography. Towards the beginning of the film, we have an overhead shot of the boys in the neighborhood playing a game of tag they call “Manhunt”, and later on in the film, we see that image repeated with police officers as they launch an actual manhunt for the serial killer known as The Cape May Slasher.
The music helps keep the thrill rising and the nostalgia flowing, and the climactic chase scene towards the end is taught with suspense. The film does a great job, in my opinion, of presenting the viewer with enough evidence to be so assured in their assumptions that they have to believe they are wrong. But are they?
The Cape May Slasher, as he is revealed throughout the film, is a truly sinister character, and worthy of the thrills the film intends to conjure. The core friendship of the boys is true 80s candy, and as I watched them lay their bikes by the rails outside the bowling rink without fear of theft, I let out a long sigh of a world gone by.
The pacing lags at times, and many core characters are given no development whatsoever, but all that is forgiven in the brazen, confident swagger exuded by Skovbye’s Nikkie Kaszuba, the object of Davey’s lust and his former babysitter. She could’ve easily been a one-dimensional character but her relentless pursuit of friendship during her personal turmoil humanizes and emboldens her in such a way that she steals your heart and redeems the film all at once.
As Skovbye herself puts it “It’s a genre thriller, so just don’t go expecting it to change your world, but go into it expecting to have a really good time and you won’t be disappointed.”
I, for one, was most certainly not.
SUMMER OF '84 will be released in theaters on August 10, 2018, and available on VOD and Digital HD on August 24, 2018.