‘Summer of ’84’ Is a Splash of Brilliant B-Movie Nostalgia
by Nile Fortner
Even though I wasn’t born yet, I know that 1984 was a fantastic year that gave us classics that would later go on to become classic nostalgia. The year 1984 gave us a Schwarzenegger as a futuristic killing-machine cyborg hunting down anyone named Sarah Connor in The Terminator. The year 1984 also taught us that Gremlins can’t get wet, Molly Ringwald was the O.G. red-head babe before Jessica Chastain (sorry Jessica), and that counting after “five and six you better grab your crucifix” before a red-and-green striped sweater wearing serial killer haunts your dreams.
We all get a kick out of the 1980’s and the 1980’s have been creeping back into our mainstream with recent films and TV shows like IT, Stranger Things, and the upcoming Wonder Woman sequel, Wonder Woman 1984. A lot of our recent films and filmmakers seem to be relying on the trendy wave of riding 1980’s nostalgia to get by. The movie Summer of ’84 does ride that trendy wave, on the other hand, the film isn’t afraid to go in a different direction.
Summer of ’84 comes from the filmmakers behind another hit-movie filled with ’80s likeness called Turbo Kid. Much like Turbo Kid, Summer of ’84 is filled with a kick-ass synth score and has an approach to the likeness of the 1980’s. The film follows a teenager, Davey Armstrong, and Davey is a conspiracy theorist who believes that a neighboring bachelor police officer is a serial killer. With help from three friends, Davey launches an investigation that soon turns into dangerous situations.
This movie has a lot riding on its shoulders with similarities to Stranger Things, Disturbia, and 2017’s, IT. You can’t help but compare it to those films because Summer of ’84 is so similar to those movies. The movie is packed with fun nostalgia that reminds me of the B-Movies that I love. On the other hand, this movie is paying so much homage and references wrapped in ’80s nostalgia, it forgets to have its own style.
As I wrote earlier, I’m a fan of the 80’s and nostalgia as much as the next fanboy. Their previous film, Turbo Kid, was a throwback type of movie to the 80’s. However, the filmmakers still had their own unique style that stood out from the rest of the pack and that unique style is lacking in Summer of ’84. It is almost as if the filmmakers were more focused on shoving 80’s likeness into their film, that they forgot to be more original with their story.
Screenwriters Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith pack a lot of cool elements into their script, but it’s mostly elements that we’ve seen way too much of in our pop culture recently. If audiences didn’t get 80’s themed movies, reboots, and shows, then this movie would be sitting on cloud nine. So it’s a perfect example of the wrong place at the wrong time. Even if the filmmakers and writers went into the project believing that this trend would help the film, the overall story, style, writing, and character development just feels a little weak when compared to other modern 80’s themed projects. The 2015 film Turbo Kid combined kids’ movies, adventure films, B-Movie violence, and a post-apocalyptic setting to create a gleeful mix-up of a movie. In Summer of ‘84, it’s clear that the directors still know exactly how to remix their old-school favorites, for instance, there is a scene in the movie that’s similar to 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street which I did enjoy.
Riding the trendy wave of 80’s nostalgia is starting to run out of gas for not just this film, but a lot of films and TV shows we’ve been getting recently. It’s great to have an 80’s themed movie, but let’s not let our love for the 80’s get in the way of our originality. Summer of ’84 seems to lack some originality, especially when you’ve seen their last film Turbo Kid.
On a more positive note, Summer of ’84 has a fun Amblin vibe and plays with similar themes. I dig how we get that vibe and the filmmakers really do distinguish themselves from the family-friendly vibe by having the boys truly feel like young pre-teen kids. These kids are fun and feel real with their dirty mouths and those dirty little minds talking about sex. The dialogue reminds me of IT and even more like is Stand By Me. This is one of my favorite aspects of the film.
Another cool aspect is the eerie tension this film creates with our cop serial killer. Every time the kids have an interaction with our serial killer, it feels strange and the tone works at creating scary thrills. Davey’s hunt for exposing this serial killer is enjoyable, however, it seems the story doesn’t invest as much as they can into it because it just can’t get away from the clever references. Moreover, the ending is something I was not expecting and the film embraces the B-Movie gore many fans, including myself, love seeing on the big screen.
Summer of ’84 is indeed a splash of brilliant B-Movie nostalgia and unfortunately not much else. I enjoy how this film started out like a Goosebumps novel but took a shocking balls-out turn into high-gear horror. As a horror and 1980’s fan, I do enjoy Summer of ’84. On the other hand, when we step back for our love of nostalgia and purely look at it and judge it on its own, Summer of ’84 is missing some originality. The film relies too much on this trend and 80’s love to get by and this just felt way too similar to other projects. I do like the characters and I wish the originality of the story was as good as our witty characters. While it isn’t a perfect film, Summer of ’84 will please horror-heads and 1980’s obsessed audiences looking for a decent summer thriller/slasher.
I am giving Summer of ’84 a 2.5 out of 5 Hairpieces!