Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere) is a typical eighties kid in the small North American town of Ipswich, with three best friends who constitute their own close gang, but mostly they hang around in the clubhouse discussing sex, which at fifteen years of age they are too young to do very much about. However, there is a serial killer at large in the region, and this has fired up the imagination of Davey in particular - now the summer holidays have arrived, they all need a project, and tracking down the murderer would be just the thing to keep them occupied. And Davey has someone in mind as the main suspect, too: the neighbour across the street from him, Officer Mackey (Rich Sommer).
The eighties nostalgia juggernaut showed little sign of slowing at the point this throwback to the drama and horror of the decade arrived, with its part Steven Spielberg, part Steven King plotting and arrangement, set in the suburbs and centred around innocents who stumble upon something formidable. But the question that arises throughout, until we have the answer at least, is whether Mackey genuinely is the serial killer, or whether Davey's imagination has gone into overdrive, fuelled by a diet of horror movies and paranormal exposes in magazines and books. The idea that you could be the hero of your own story by taking the lead in a mystery is obviously an attractive one.
It's also an idea that can get you into a lot of trouble, whether you are right about your solution, or you are utterly wrong, as you have introduced yourself as a factor in a set of circumstances that might have unfolded better without your interference. Davey and his pals certainly discover that to be the case, though the film adhered to the conventions of the juvenile mystery yarns that had been popular since The Hardy Boys started selling countless books decades before this was set (our hero is seen with one such book, to underline where the filmmakers were coming from). What the Hardys, or Nancy Drew, or The Three Investigators, or The Famous Five, didn't encounter was this eventual ending.
The script came from debuting Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith, and very accomplished it was too, patently coming from a place where they had grown up in this era and knew its entertainment very well, as far as the America stuff went anyway. But the directors were François Simard, Anouk and Yoann-Karl Whissell, meaning Summer of 84 was the eagerly awaited next project from the creators of post-apocalyptic action throwback Turbo Kid, another piece with much to thank the eighties for, and while the fans of that yearned for the sequel, this was more than adequate in tiding them over. On a relatively small, indie budget once again, they crafted a slick-looking and atmospheric thriller that more than one observer noted was essentially Joe Dante's The Burbs played straight.
The Dante cult effort had suffered notorious problems in trying to work out a satisfying ending to its comedy, but had achieved some degree of subversion until it fumbled the reveal, yet this solved that problem by more or less confirming your suspicions and taking a left turn into slasher movie territory instead of relying on a frantic set of punchlines. In this way, Summer of 84 was better prepared for an ending that was not about to send you off with a pat on the head and reassurance that all was well, the status quo having been restored and prevailing, as it looked toward an uncertain future, and did so with quite haunting efficacy. The trio of directors were very good with their cast, and early scenes where it seemed like the four teens would be wearyingly sex-preoccupied gave way to a more sympathetic portrayal when we twig just how vulnerable they have become - Tiera Skovbye joined them as the older ex-babysitter of Davey making him realise women should not all be sex objects, another accomplished performance in a film full of them. It was a modest effort, not aiming as high as Turbo Kid, but with some depth. Music by Le Matos (neato synths).