The horror genre can often be a blurred line. For instance, many fans feel that Silence of the Lambs is a horror film, and others feel that it is a straightforward psychological thriller. While some movies may be subjective as to how they should be categorized, it’s baffling that anyone would consider Summer of 84 a horror picture, but that’s exactly what the movie is advertised as. With little to no suspense, an absence of scary scenes, and only one on-screen murder, it could be easily argued that this is not a horror flick. However, Summer of 84 being thrown into the wrong category is the least of the film’s problems, as that would be forgivable if it were actually an effective piece.
The film takes place in the same year as the title would suggest, and like Rear Window and Suburbia, this 2018 film is a tale of someone who suspects that their neighbor is a murderer. Unlike the other two movies, Summer of 84 does little to entice any real intrigue or suspense. IMDb provides the premise for one of the most disappointing horror movies of 2018.
“After suspecting that their police officer neighbor is a serial killer, a group of teenage friends spend their summer spying on him and gathering evidence, but as they get closer to discovering the truth, things get dangerous.”
It feels like the film was directed by several different people, and that’s because it was. Anouk Whissell, Francois Simard, and Yoann-Karl Whissell all directed the supposed horror movie, and that might explain why the film’s essence has no continuity. At times, the movie feels like a coming of age story. At other times, it feels like a crime drama that would likely be found on the Lifetime network. Unfortunately, it’s not effective as a crime drama or as a coming of age story.
There is little character depth given to the four teenage boys, and any depth that is provided is oddly revealed at the end of the film. So, viewers have little reason to care about the friendship of this group of mischievous teens, and their bond appears to be based on nothing. The audience isn’t given any reasons on why these four kids are friends, and they spend most of their time simply trying to tolerate one another.
As a crime drama, Summer of 84 falls flat. From the get go, it’s no mystery if the neighbor is actually the murderer. If it was the directors’ intention to actually have that be a puzzle for the audience to solve, then they failed. The neighbor is played by Rich Sommer (Netflix’s GLOW), and while Sommer is a talented actor, this movie is not an example of his acting skills. Every line he delivers feels forced and unnatural, and that’s par for the course, as everything feels forced in this film, including the nostalgia.
The directing also feels rushed. During some scenes that are supposed to be scary, the filmmakers cut to the reveal so quickly that it eliminates all suspense. This doesn’t give the audience time to get drawn into the scene. Even a generic jump-scare horror film is more effective at enticing fear.
On paper, this is the type of horror film that many fans would eat up. Movies set in the decade of excess can be a ton of fun when it feels organic, but this feels like they simply went down a checklist of ’80s nostalgia; four kids riding around on old-school bikes and playing flashlight games—check; characters referencing ’80s movies an abundant of times—check; kids communicating through G.I. Joe walkie talkies—check; friends hanging out in a tree house—check.
Even worse, the nostalgia is so profuse that it almost comes off as a satire. It’s seems clear that the filmmakers were going for a Stranger Things vibe, but the nostalgia in Stranger Things seems understated compared to this supposed horror flick.
This would have been better with a less-is-more formula, and it would have been more intriguing if it were just a generic jump-scare horror flick. The only real excitement and horror occurs during the climax of the film, which only lasts about 5 or 10 minutes, and it’s a disappointing and laughable ending that feels misplaced. If you’re in the mood for horror movies centered in the ’80s, you would be better off revisiting a film from that period than watching Summer of 84.