Summer of 84 is not going to be able to escape the comparisons to Stranger Things and 2017’s IT. Those are just inevitable. The connections are too obvious. I won’t dwell on them but I would like to point out that the ’80’s nostalgia feels a bit more forced in Summer of 84 than it does in the other two projects. Stranger Things and IT both seemed to be stories that just so happen to take place in the ’80’s. Summer of 84 feels like it is constantly reminding you that this is 1984. There, I got it out of the system.
There’s really no new ground being broken in Summer of 84. The story is a take on Rear Window. It’s basically about a group of teenagers who have become convinced that one of their neighbors is a serial killer and they spend the summer spying on him, trying to get the proof they need to go to the police. While it’s not a wholly original idea, it is executed perfectly. The viewer is given a bunch of evidence that suggests the neighbor is the serial killer, that evidence is refuted, more evidence, refuted again and so on. It’s a fun story to follow as you bounce back and forth between the guilt and innocence of the neighbor.
Not only is the movie well written, the performances are all spot on. The kids all do a great job and come off a lot like the group of kids I used to hangout with growing up in the ’80’s. It’s Rich Sommer who steals the movie though with his performance as Wayne Mackey, the neighbor that is believed to be a killer. Sommer plays every beat perfectly and does a great job of keeping you on your toes as you try to decide whether he is guilty or not.
This is not a perfect horror movie. It’s derivative of not only Rear Window but a host of other movies that have kids trying to prove something to adults who dismiss it as an overactive imagination (see a huge chunk of Spielberg’s filmography). It is, however, a fun ride with plenty of twists and turns. It’s an easy film to watch, with very little gore. I sense that I will return to Summer of 84 more than a lot of horror films because of this. It may be derivative, but if you’re going to borrow, who better to borrow from than Hitchcock and Spielberg?