Summer of 84 (2018)
Even serial killers live next door to somebody.
Now, the description of this movie said “hey, remember the ‘Burbs?” to which I spoke “Yes, I do.” In a typical fashion, something sounds similar to something I already know I enjoyed, so I decide might as well try that one out as well. How will it play out? Spookier? Funnier? I mean, the lead team is a bunch of kids, so it probably won’t get too serious right? Perhaps something like a mix of The ‘Burbs and The Goonies or Monster Squad? I mean, none of those would be a bad thing in my book, so I sat and I watched, and now we all get to reminisce about the good, the bad, the Summer of 84.
As stated, the main crew here is a bunch of teens and certainly some might be like “oh boy, here we go.” That said, most who might think that would also realize the movie was made recently, meaning that for the dollar it’s probably going to be some pretty decent acting on them - to which they would be right. The kids knock it out of the park with how they play it off of each other, or just in general. There might be a few times where it’s perhaps not a grand slam performance, but for whatever times it leaves you hanging there are plenty more where the kids make you have some uncalled for flashback to a time you may or may not have been alive for. There’s a distinct level of “boys will be boys” to their performances - surely not everyone will appreciate the level of teen horn-dogging, despite the lack of any actual nudity or such beyond the lines. That said, it also comes off very much not forced or overdone all considering, and you could find far worse sitting in an Xbox lobby for five minutes. The adults here also do a decent job acting, although given most of them having a somewhat slim pickings of screen time the stand-out performance to less impressive ratio skews far more blandly than with the kids. Of the adults, the main suspect ends up being the one getting the most screen time (logically), and he does a pretty dang good job with what he does have, be it coming off creepy or weird whether it’s the character’s intention or not. Part of that has less to do with the actor’s performance, but we’ll touch on that later.
The plot isn’t super complex - there’s a serial killer about, and one conspiracy-minded kid thinks he knows who it is. With his band of friends, they try to close in and get proof, but they could be drawing closer and closer to danger if they aren’t wrong! The pacing of it fits well with the mystery thriller side, with enough down times to build characters home lives out to an appreciable extent without overstepping the movie. It’s ideally just enough to fit in with the theme of “not everything is as it seems” that the movie pitched in the first place. For the most part, it does end up feeling very similar to a movie I already mentioned with it’s plot and pacing - The ‘Burbs - however it feels much less joking about it most of the time. The more - dare i say - depressing focus on the harshness of the reality behind closed doors does more to set it apart from whatever child-like comedy interactions and friendship is the best moments existing in the movie though - a bit of dual tonality going on, each helping to appreciate the others, especially by the time you get to that ending - assuming your disc doesn’t keep committing seppuku seven minutes from the end like mine did (I had to skip around about a thirty second chunk, which I don’t image was a super important thing but probably will never know).
The performances are good enough here to support the seriousness of some of what it tries to portray - be it perhaps some domestic disturbances, some marital disputes, or the only thing actually looming in the foreground - the serial killer in the quiet town. Outside of the final act, a lot of the more unsightly elements are kept pretty well in the background - it’s talked about, or you might hear it going on in the background, but it’s never something that is flat out shown. Honestly, even the serial killer elements are pretty well hidden away until the final act and reveal of the real killer. It’s not that you won’t know or notice any of those things, it’s just not blasted in your face like it’s the main reason the movie exists. It’s a nice combination, and the drama elements in turn end up being quite accessible and perhaps more impactful because everything ends up feeling less like an overly staged presentation and more like a complete possibility and look into life of the day. You end up finding characters endearing as snippets of their life unveils during the progression of time, and plenty of things are spread about that the movie does eventually point out towards the end that could queue the astute in to where the mystery is going.
Costumes aren’t anything all that impressive here in the fantasy elements - it’s a slice of life sort of thing, but they do it well regardless. You get the bad boy cool kid, the nerdy one, the lovable good guy, the conspiracy kid, the cops and the girl next door. Nothing really looks out of place, and it all just helps meld into that feeling of being legit and fitting. The characters look unique enough that you don’t confuse them, even in the rather bright night scenes. Although a person might be slightly confused as to why the night scenes are as bright as they are, it works quite nicely for being able to see details, and somewhat fits with the populated suburban area as well. The only real effects work doesn’t happen until the end, and although it’s a bit gruesome it’s quick, looking more than well enough for the short period of time it’s on the screen - although I do think perhaps if you were to freeze it and get a real eye-soak of it perhaps it wouldn’t be as impressive. That said, who the heck is pausing the movie to dissect moments when things are getting good?
Audio balance is done well. The only time you may not hear whats being said on screen is when our lead kid is listening in on phone calls, although it’s reasonably done and still audible anyways. The music doesn’t particularly stand out in a manner that makes me recognize it, but it does fit that synth-powered retro laser and purple format that I do so enjoy when I hear it. It does a good job of helping many aspects of the movie as well - be it the fright or the summertime joy. It’s weird how music that can sound so samey can manage to pull off so many different moods, isn’t it? Probably a reason why I like it, am I right? It also does a wonderful job with regards to the main suspect, constantly causing tension or creepiness around him. Regardless, I enjoyed it, lines were delivered well and could be heard when delivered, and the movie didn’t have to resort to spamming licensed 80’s songs to get you to feel like it’s then.
Now, most the movie is very much a mystery or team kids adventure sort of affair. This isn’t necessarily to say that it’s kid friendly - between how the boys can talk and the more serious background tones going on, it’d probably be best to watch it first and figure out if the kiddos could handle it. The real kicker for the kids is the final act - the part that pushes it in a totally different direction than what I would have expected with something that was similar to The ‘Burbs in description and plenty of other ways. It gets mean, and it comes on with only a lingering suspicion before it happens. After watching, it feels rather a bit inevitable, much like the Terminator’s judgement day. Before seeing it though, the movies labeling as horror seems like it might be a bit loose as a tag.
Although it won’t be for everyone I suppose, this was a pretty dang good movie. It was entertaining, and if you really like to pick at those little lines of commentary across the board you could probably have a field day with what this movie has to say about things. The ending might feel a little disappointing, but at the same time very much feels deserved, like it’s what it should be despite the mood you are in when you receive it. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say that I’m going out to buy this one ( although perhaps then I could see that missing minute), but I’m also certainly glad that I did watch it. If you like a gang of kids in danger like in It, but also like that suburbia commentary like in The ‘Burbs, you really should enjoy this one. If you just want something bright and cheerful, perhaps this isn’t the movie you are looking for. If the description is looking real good to you, give it a rent - heck, if it’s cheap enough you could probably even pick it up and not feel bad about it. Some might even be able to find it at normal price and still consider it a great buy, but let’s face it - a rental to be safe is never a waste, even if the movie is pretty dang good.