Summer of ’84 (2018)

The thing about RKSS’s latest eighties inspired genre offering is that it’ll poke all the right nostalgia cords with audiences. There’s so much eighties ephemera, that it’ll be difficult not to be charmed by it. But deep down beneath the “Cruel Summer” music cues, and giant camcorders beats the heart of a vicious, mean spirited and dark murder mystery that was often unpleasant and kind of dull. To admit that isn’t easy as I loved RKSS’s “Turbo Kid” and anxiously wanted to see what they would do with a murder mystery. But while you might get shades of “Stranger Things” here and there, the movie itself is pretty crappy.

Davey, Eats, Woody, and Curtis are all friends that hang out in their tree house and spend their days facing teenhood while also refusing to let go of the past. When Davey neighbor Mr. Mackey with a young boy who goes missing one day, he begins to suspect Mr. Mackey is the Cape May Slayer, a kidnapper and serial killer the police have been chasing. Now he and his three friends begin investigating Mr. Mackey, convinced he’s the murderer. Mackey seems to be generally good natured about their investigation, despite disrupting their lives, but is this the game of some psychotic serial killer, or the delusions of guys that just can’t face moving on and growing up? RKSS invoke a lot of “The Burbs,” “Rear Window,” and a tad of “Fright Night” with what is essentially a tale about the end of innocence.

And if you’re not catching on yet, the movie beats the hell out of you with those overtones. RKSS stage a pretty great scenic eighties town with back woods and its own colorful characters as well as four eighties archetypes we can root for, and jeer when they’ve hit their pitfalls. But “Summer of 84” takes a long time to get the wheels in motion in regards to its mystery and hysteria revolving Davey’s suspicion his neighbor is a serial killer. While there are genuine moments of tension and suspense, a lot of it feels like filler and dry runs rather than mounting tension that will lead to an explosion. RKSS’s big eighties celebration works to the detriment of the film’s actual narrative involving murder and a mystery that could mean doom for its protagonists.

Nothing really very interesting happens within the course of the movie, and when events finally explode in our heroes faces in the finale, RKSS dive head first in to a rather grisly and unpleasant showdown that is shockingly more violent than the entire film would have you believe it’s building up to. I was surprised with how grisly RKSS tended to make what felt like more of a spooky mystery than anything else. I was so sorely disappointed in how monotonous and clunky it all way, especially when it came to the heavy handed allegories about growing up. Most fans of RKSS might love the massive injection of eighties nostalgia they put on display here, as did I. I loved the music, the score, and everything. But when it comes time to unfold an interesting story with engaging characters, “Summer of 84” stumbles and never recovers.

In theaters on August 10th, and available on VOD and Digital HD on August 24th.