Every Serial Killer Live Next Door To Someone. This brilliant tagline is echoed in every paranoia-fueled scene of Summer of ’84. Directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell. The adventurous thriller is a nostalgic throwback to a time when you had to get your hands dirty if you really wanted answers. Summer of ’84 follows 15-year-old Davey (Graham Verchere) and his friends as they investigate and spy on a neighbor he believes to be the Cape May Killer. There’s always been something about Mr. Mackey (Rich Sommer) that Davey found suspicious, but now that the killer has claimed responsibility for the deaths of over a dozen missing children, Davey attention is on his neighbor. Family and friends are doubtful that Davey‘s suspicions are anything more than another of his crack-pot conspiracy theories. Mr Mackey is a respected police officer after all…
The filmmaker Tri-Force, known as RKSS, made a big splash in the genre-film arena with their debut feature Turbo Kid (2015). Set in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of 1997, Turbo Kid was a blood splattered thrill ride that brought 80’s nostalgia back in fashion before Stranger Things could claim responsibility for doing the same. Summer of ’84. though a perfect addition to the wave of synth sentimentality we are currently riding, is a departure from their highly stylized aesthetic. Our very own Chris Aitkens recently sat down with directors François Simard and Anouk Whissell to discuss the reception of the film after it’s world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
This year, we felt more pressure, mainly because we’re returning with a very different movie than Turbo Kid. We were very nervous with the expectations from people who had loved Turbo Kid. This movie is very grounded, it’s the most serious movie we done so far, so we didn’t know how people would react to it.
What makes a quote-unquote 80’s Nostalgia Film so compelling is it’s adventure. And what kid, bogged down by suburban life, could pass up the opportunity for a summer adventure? Summer of ’84 is set against a backdrop of cookie cutter homes that somehow defined an era that clung onto an ideal American Living. Perfectly manicured lawns. Decorative drapes that added a hint of personality. A clean, polished car in the driveway of every stable home. Could a serial killer ask for a better place to hide?
From the outset of the film, our paperboy protagonist is convinced that the quiet, single police officer at the end of the street has a dark secret. With nothing more to go on than a hunch, he enlists the help of his puberty-possessed pals to follow this man’s every step. After a stale investigation provides only a boring routine of jogging, gardening, and television, no one believes that Mr. Mackey could possibly be the Cape May Killer. No one except a foolish boy seduced by mystery, willing to risk everything, including the lives of his friends, to expose a killer.
Somewhere in the middle of this all is the realization that no home, no matter how presentable, is safe from a dark, doomed existence. Behind every picturesque garden is divorce, depression and worst of all, murder. While the film spends little effort trying to shift your suspicion toward anyone else, there is a paranoia embedded in the story that has you pointing your finger even when the script may not. That said, among any predictability and girls’-with-little-reason-to-wander-next-door, Summer of ’84 holds a truly surprising finish. Our protagonist Davey barrels head first into danger at the drop of a hat because (unlike everyone around him) a life of regret and sorrow is something that only belongs to the strangers across the street. It isn’t until Davey is face-to-face with torment that his story truly begins, as the Summer of ’84 comes to a terrifying end.
Summer of ’84 is written by Matt Leslie & Stephen J. Smith, and produced by Matt Leslie, Jameson Parker, Thierry Tanguy, Shawn Williamson. The film stars Rich Sommer (Mad Men, Glow), Tiera Skovbye (Riverdale), Graham Verchere (The Good Doctor, Fargo), with Judah Lewis (Demolition), Caleb Emery (American Vandal), and Cory Gruter-Andrew (Okja, The 100) rounding out the cast.
Summer of ’84 is a production of Brightlight Pictures and Gunpowder & Sky, the studio behind last year’s festival hits Tragedy Girls, Manfield 66/67, and The Little Hours. There is currently no release date for the film, but it is sure to make festival appearances through the rest of year.