Summer of 84 (2018)

Summer of 84
Director: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Writer: Matt Leslie, Stephen J. Smith
Cast: Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Tiera Skovbye, Rich Sommer
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 24.9.2018

A serial killer has been active in Cape May, leaving the area in a constant state of vigilance. This includes Davey (Graham Verchere), though to be fair, he doesn’t need much prompting to see mysteries and conspiracies everywhere. That’s why not even his friends Woody (Caleb Emery), Curtis (Cory Grüter-Andrew) and Eats (Judah Lewis) believe him, when Davey starts to suspect that his neighbor, police officer Wayne Mackey (Rich Sommer), is the Cape May Slayer. Nevertheless, after yet another suspicious disappearance, the four start to investigate Mackey.

Summer of 84 starts as an hommage to the 80s adventure film, perfectly evoking the look and feel of them. But it isn’t content with “just” paying hommage, and takes quite a turn in the end that both makes and breaks the film.

I’m not that much into 80s nostalgia, so I didn’t expect much of the film. But I have to say that it perfectly captures the feeling of the various films where a group of teenagers on their bikes ride through suburbia, having adventures. Unfortunately that includes reproducing some of the problems that those films have: like always focusing on the white dudes, having usually only one girl in the mix so the boys have someone to fall in love with, and being set in an entirely white world. I would have liked a bit more departure in that character set-up.

But then the film sticks to the genre conventions down to a tee, including the characters, which is part of why it’s so evocative of the old films. That is, until the film takes its turn against all genre expectations. That move brought the film instantly from “nice but nothing we haven’t seen before” to “holy shit”, culminating in an ending that has quite the weight. It’s great but also, gulp.

Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery and Cory Grüter-Andrew in the film.

The film is generally very well made. The soundtrack is nice, very synthizer-y, which isn’t necessarily my thing, but fits the story and setting. And the boys play very well. A particular stand-out for me was Judah Lewis whose every gesture and intonation was perfectly placed.

Overall, I have to say that Summer of 84 very much surpassed my expectations, managing to subvert an entire genre while paying hommage to it, leading us to question not only our own expectations but the genre itself and why we want the stories told according to its conventions.

Caleb Emery, Graham Verchere, Cory Grüter-Andrew and Judah Lewis in the film.

Summarizing: very engaging, but not as light and sweet as one might expect.

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