Friday, 7 September 2018



Assuming we're all still here: what's going to happen in thirty years' time? Specifically (I'm not thinking about flying cars or moonbases or brain transplants) what will horror cinema look like given that there's a huge thread of nostalgia for the eighties right now? We've had Netflix's Stranger Things (which I haven't watched) and last year's It, and this year's FrightFest was so 80s-heavy the opening night even had a dress-up theme (in which I obviously did not indulge). In film-making terms it's great, if only because the movies can avoid plot problems created by GoogleMaps and cellphones by simply backdating them. But what are the nostalgic film producers of 2045 going to do? Loving homages to the Wan/Whannell school? Reboots of Saw? Will found footage make a triumphant comeback?

Summer Of 84 (also listed in the credits as Summer Of '84) is probably the best of the current run of throwbacks, with more likeable characters than The Ranger and lighter and funnier than It. Over the summer holidays, a quartet of suburban kids investigate whether the guy next door is actually the serial killer who's been abducting and killing off teenage boys in the area. Where does he go every night? Why the large purchases of soil and gardening tools? What does he keep in his garage across town? Or is there a perfectly harmless if unlikely explanation? The problem is that the suspicious-acting neighbour is actually a cop....

Mostly it's a lot of fun: an appropriate synth score, lovingly detailed period recreation of that idyllic summer with no schoolwork (or neighbourhood bullies) to get in the way, effective suspense sequences. The teen cast, as much the gang from The Goonies or the amateur film-making team from (the criminally undervalued) Super 8 as the Losers' Club from either version of It, or indeed junior versions of the cast of The 'Burbs, are agreeable heroes, and the film flips efficiently between whether the man is guilty or not. But eventually it has to pick a side and the ending involves a too-sudden change in tone, as if an album by The Carpenters unaccountably concluded with a Sex Pistols track or a chunk of Mahler. Some people went with the sudden gear switch but for me it was too much of a jolt.

It also means that with its sudden lurch towards the bleak and graphic the film suddenly becomes unsuitable for the young teen audience who up to that point would probably have appreciated it more. But if you're in the older age group, if you can remember the eighties first hand, it's like a nice warm bath in childhood memory juice. Very enjoyable.


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