Following in the footsteps of their debut film (RKSS’ post-apocalyptic face-melter Turbo Kid) is another nostalgia-fueled stab at the genre with Summer of 84, only this time they’re re-visiting the glory (and gory) days of the slasher genre. While this is no doubt the trio’s forte, it lacks the heart and character you’d expect from the crew that brought us Turbo Kid. In it, after suspecting that their neighbor is a serial killer, a group of teenage friends spend their summer spying on him, but as they get closer to discovering the truth, things get dangerous.
In Summer of 84 we’re thrown into this everyday town that if not for its recent string of missing children, would be just another spot on the map. It’s that low-key, little town vibe that really stands out—everyone seems to know everyone; the kind of place where nothing bad could ever happen. So the film builds its narrative around that sense of innocence and injects a gang of shit-talking friends that uncover a dark mystery into it. And because this place feels like home, the terror that begins to sweep through it hits that much harder for the people that live there. It certainly works here, especially if you’re trying to set up a story that’s centered around a pretty simple plot mechanism—kids suspect their neighborhood cop is the man responsible for all of the missing children.
The story revolves around the relationship these kids have with one another, but because they are so superficially written, it’s hard to really embrace the film’s coming-of-age concept. The small town vibes so wonderfully created fall apart due to a set of characters that don’t feel like they belong to the same reality. Each friend is just a different (more or less extreme) version of the other, and all they’re capable of is saying sex jokes that rarely land. Their dialog and interactions feel forced, making Summer of 84 seem more like a parody and less like its own unique thing.
There’s a lot of elements at work here—coming-of-age meets slasher meets mystery—but none of them are developed enough to have any meaningful impact. You’d think that if there was one thing RKSS was going to nail in this movie, it was going to be the child-killing murderer part. And yet, it might be the weakest aspect of the entire movie. Children being snatched off the street never to be seen again is inherently terrifying, and although it’s a major part of the story, it never does anything worthwhile with it. And in doing so, the killer becomes a dull entity that completely flatlines the film by the final act. I know this has been a mostly negative review, but the film isn’t all bad—predictably, it has a fantastic score and RKSS do a masterful job of creating a world that feels authentic. But because there’s no depth to its story or characters (especially the killer), Summer of 84 is more disappointing than anything else.