Saturday, 3 November 2018

Shudder Saturday: Summer Of 84

From the group that brought you Turbo Kid, and a few other treats, Summer Of 84 is an enjoyable thriller that manages to recreate the feel of some of your favourite films from the 1980s. Much like their previous film, this may not please fans who are after something a bit grittier and more violent. But it's a much more successful attempt to give viewers a film that feels like a love letter to a very specific form of entertainment. For me anyway, although I know I am in the minority because I didn't outright love Turbo Kid.

Graham Verchere is Davey Armstrong, your typical American movie teen. He has a paper round, he enjoys spending time with friends, who are often at the mercy of their hormones, and he has a vivid imagination. This is why his friends aren't totally convinced when he gets the idea that his neighbour, Mr Mackey (Rich Sommer), is a serial killer. The fact that Mr Mackey is also a policeman makes it harder to consider him as a serious suspect, but Davey and his friends begin their own investigation anyway.

Considering the many obvious influences here, this is a film that deserves praise for managing to have a sense of its own identity. The script, by Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith (their first, making it all the more impressive), isn't overly cute and complex. It's simply very well done throughout, with the main characters given just enough depth, the plot developments feel believable enough, and everything builds to a finale that rewards your patience with some bloodshed and real darkness.

It helps that you care about the cast of young characters, played by Verchere, Caleb Emery, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Judah Lewis, and Tiera Skovbye (the main female who the boys all lust after). They're all spot on in their roles, and Sommer is equally good, playing a man who may be a killer and may just be a nice guy who finds himself harassed by a bunch of teenagers. There are other adults acting onscreen, and they're good, but the heart of the movie beats strongest during the scenes that feature Verchere and Sommer.

The direction, by Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-karl Whissell, is solid. The trio work better this time around with some filtering stopping them from throwing everything in the mix that takes their fancy. Whether that is thanks to the script, or just the fact that they know they will have more than one movie with which to show their love of certain movies, I view it as a good sign for things to come.

Okay, Summer Of 84 may lack the quirkiness of The 'burbs, and it may lack the balance of fun and thrills that were contained in Disturbia (I still love that film, and I don't care who knows it), but those films are close touchstones for this one, perhaps because both of them are also built on a premise that is a teen-friendly riff on Blue Velvet. All of these films explore the secrets just hidden away behind the white picket-fences of everyday American suburbs. That material gives them their comfort factor, and allows it to be twisted into something that plays on our suspicions and fears. What exactly is going on next door? What thoughts go through the mind of the neighbour that you pass by every morning on your way to work? Because everyone seems oblivious when they're being interviewed by reporters and delivering the usual "they just kept themselves to themselves" line.


Feel free to go shopping here.
Americans can get it here.

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