Friday, August 24, 2018

Summer of '84 (2018)

It's summer and Davey Armstrong has more time than ever to hang out with his best friends Eats, Woody, and Faraday. When they are playing "Manhunt," a tag game played at night with flashlights, Davey notices a curly haired kid in his neighbor Wayne Mackey's house only to have them disappear a moment later. He doesn't think anything of it at the time, but the next time he sees the kid's face is on a milk carton. Davey is convinced that police officer Mackey is a murderer and spends all summer snooping around and trying to prove it.

Summer of '84 is more of a mystery than a horror film that pits four teens against a possibly murderous cop who lives next door. The friends are pretty different from each other and most are fleshed out. Davey is a conspiracy theorist whose walls are papered with a paper that's essentially the Weekly World News. Eats is a wannabe punk who tries to be as abrasive as possible and has a troubled home life. Woody is the "fat kid" so common in 80's movies. He's the nicest character. Faraday is a nerd. These kids are all so different, it begs the question why they are all even friends. Faraday gets next to no character development and Eats does, but randomly leaves before the finale of the film. They do lots of typical things together like playing their "Manhunt" game, hanging out in their tree house, and looking at porn or the dressing girl next door to Davey.

Even though it has all the things that make 80's media successful, it feels a bit artificial here. The film strives to be more "adult" than Stranger Things, but comes off more offputting. Women have no major role beyond Nikki, the girl next door. Her character is completely unbelievable. First, she's the unattainable dream girl next door that Davey watches undress and then becomes something more. After she realizes this, she comes over to his house like a fantasy, pours out her heart, seems to have sexual interest in him (even though she used to babysit him), and helps with his investigation. This felt like complete wish fulfillment for Davey. Nikki is a popular seventeen year old girl. There's no reason for her to hang out with Davey when she has friends her own age beyond the artificial wish fulfullment. It's also disappointing that the writers wanted "80's authenticity," so women have no real role outside of a sex object.

Summer of '84 is overall an enjoyable movie to watch. The pacing is glacial for the majority of it and takes forever for anything to actuall confirm or deny if the cop next door is a murderer. I enjoyed the misdirections, but most of the movie was a mystery with teen antics as opposed to the horror I expected it to be. The ending is worth the wait with all the horror elements I wanted stuffed into about 20 minutes. The characters and pacing are flawed and obviously tries to capitalize on the 80's nostalgia so popular today, but it's worth a watch.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

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