The '80’s horror revival just keeps on trucking, with the success of Stranger Things inspiring a whole new appreciation for monsters in the closet, John Carpenter-ish keyboards, and loving closeups of Jolt Cola. Summer of ‘84 proves to be a worthy addition to the movement, with both a knack for the old familiar steps, and the ability to hit some brand new creepy beats.
Set within a sleepy Oregon suburb, the script by newcomers Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith follows a conspiracy-minded teenager (Graham Verchere) who suspects that the too-friendly cop next door (Mad Men’s Rich Sommer) may actually be a serial killer. When the evidence begins to gloppily pile up, he and his gang of affectionately stereotypical friends—horndog, nerd, husky kid—pick up their walkie-talkies and start investigating.
The Canadian directing collective RKSS, who were previously responsible for the highly caffeinated Turbo Kid, here wisely slow things way down, exploring the neighborhood’s copious late-night nooks and crannies, while also giving time for the relationships between the characters to set. Aided by an admirably straight-faced cast, the results largely feel less like a winking homage, and more like something that might have actually been in heavy rotation on Cinemax back in the day.
Nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake can still only go so far, and Summer of ‘84 would most likely remain at the enjoyably disposable stage were it not for its last few minutes, which switch from entertainingly ominous to disturbingly grim like that, with a final confrontation that’s tough to easily shiver off. It’s pretty rad, really.