‘Summer of ’84’ breaks all the rules when it comes to serial killer movies

Claire Oliver

The ’80s must have been one hell of a decade. In recent times, it seems Hollywood has often looked to the beloved era for inspiration behind top-rated films and television shows. 

“Summer of ’84” seems like just another ’80s thriller about your friendly neighborhood serial killer and a group of lanky boys who try to solve the mystery that is plaguing their suburban neighborhood. Somehow solving this mystery, the group will ultimately have the perfect summer.

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The movie’s beginning does not promise the avoidance of ’80s stereotypes. A neighborhood mystery, a group of boys, the blonde girl next door and a ringleader who were the only ones to really solve the case. It was very Scooby Doo gang mixed with the “Stranger Things” kids mixed with the “IT” kids, minus the supernatural clown in a gutter. 

The movie is centered around the 15-year-old Davey (Graham Verchere), a conspiracy theorist who comes to the conclusion that his next-door neighbor, a local police officer, has been killing teenage boys in and around his hometown. Davey and a group of his friends decide to expose the officer and become local heroes. The clues that lead the gang to this conclusion are pretty compelling. The group of boys work to gather intel to prove their theory, walkie-talkies and all.

As the movie progressed, the story became more and more dangerous for the meddling kids. The film does not shy away from the reality of dealing with dangerous people nor does it shy away from the shock that comes with the death of children.

Things don’t go as planned, and the film takes a very serious turn and then another. At first, I was afraid that it was going to be like a cliché ’80s film that ended where I expected it to end. I was happily wrong. I was genuinely surprised at the end and couldn’t believe the liberties the filmmakers took with some of the scenes and the plot.

The runtime was a long one, with moments I think could have been left out, such as the entire subplot of Davey and his neighbor Nikki (Tiera Skovbye). I thought the small love story added nothing to the film and was just another recognizable ’80s movie trope: the girl next door.

In a world of nostalgic media about the titular ’80s decade like “Stranger Things” and “Super 8,” “Summer of ’84” was surprising and good. The acting was decent enough, though the plot drove the entire story. I would recommend the movie to all the lovers of “The Goonies,” or “E.T.” The film captures the decade well and pulls you into the lives of these kids. 

The movie wasn’t Oscar-worthy by any means, but it deserves some credit for taking leaps in the narrative. The end was unexpected, and I think it was an ending I have always wanted when it comes to a movie about a serial killer.

“Summer of 84” is now playing at the Lyric for a limited time. 

Arts and Culture Editor Claire Oliver can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @claire_oliver27.