Summer of 84 has three writer/directors, one serial killer who targets adolescents, four teenage misfit boys complete with bikes and walkie-talkies, one slightly older lust interest, at least thirteen dead or missing victims, and about two hundred 1980s references.
The boys, egged on by Davey (Graham Verchere), have come to believe that their neighbor Wayne Mackey (Rich Sommer), an officer in the Ipswich Police Department, is secretly the Cape May Slayer. When they aren’t out trying to crack the case, they’re cracking wise about their hormones or dropping one of the aforementioned references, which happens about every other time that any one of them opens their mouth. I grew up in the eighties. We didn’t talk this way.
There’s nothing especially eighties about this movie, and there’s no reason that it needs to take place when it does, except that It (2017) is hot right now. But there’s plenty from the eighties that it appropriates and packages for an audience that might not know any better. The score, for example, is heavy on the synths, but it sounds like the present’s idea of the eighties, not actual music from the period. And you can name-check the Ewoks and G. I. Joe, and you can play “Cruel Summer” under the bike-riding scene just like in The Karate Kid (1984), but when you go around saying “guys” and “dude,” you come across like millennials. And when you use the word ginger to describe red hair, you come across like Canadian millennials. (The word for that in Oregon is redhead.) These compounded and entirely unforced errors ultimately distract from some clever writing from filmmaking collective RKSS, or François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell by name.
The movie wastes so much time trying to establish eighties cred that it doesn’t bother to scare us until the third act. But once the horror finally kicks in, it’s better than the rest of the movie combined. That’s not saying especially much. But if you’re watching yet another evidence hunt that the boys are intending to blame on raccoons and wondering if the movie is going to improve, the answer to the question is yes.