Support Local Journalism. Donate to Cleveland Scene.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

If 'Stranger Things' Was Grittier and Slower, it'd be 'Summer of '84,' Opening Saturday at the Capitol Theatre

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 11:18 AM

click to enlarge COURTESY OF GUNPOWDER & SKY
  • Courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky

When the Canadian film collective known as RKSS first came into public consciousness, it was with their ABC's Of Death competition short film, "T is for Turbo." The super gory and simultaneously extremely cute Mad Max meets Rad throwback became a quick fan favorite, and was developed into the contemporary cult classic, Turbo Kid.

Nostalgia throwbacks work very well for RKSS, and they have an excellent grasp on how to breathe new life into a long-dead decade. Their next venture, a kids-solving-their-neighborhood-murder flick Summer of '84 backed against synthwave music and an abundance of pop-culture references is exactly the type of film RKSS can make successfully.

The only problem is that Stranger Things and the new adaptation of Stephen King's 'IT' exist. Part of what made Turbo Kid such a smashing success was that it was a nostalgia throwback before we became overrun with films and television shows of the same nature. For RKSS, their sophomore venture is secure in their wheelhouse, but it's difficult to watch this film and not view it as more nostalgia bait.



Summer of '84 is a retro-thriller about suburban kids investigating their neighbor, whom they believe is a serial killer. It's very Goonies, it's very Monster Squad, and good-god, it's so Stranger Things it hurts. Every moment feels like a love letter to the forgotten VHS tapes we never had the chance to rent before the video stores closed their doors, but it reads like a love letter that we've read time and time before.

On the positive side, Summer of '84 is much darker and grittier than Stranger Things and IT, given the fact it's based in reality. This isn't a scary clown or a government agency giving people special powers, these are real kids tinkering around with a real serial killer.

The identity of the murderer can be predicted pretty early on, so the film plays less like a "whodunit" and more of a "how do we prove this?" Unfortunately, because of that, the legitimate reveal doesn't have much of an impact because audiences already figured it out an hour earlier.

Summer of '84's also suffers from slow pacing and unnecessary endings. The film is way too long for the story its telling, running nearly a full thirty minutes longer than the iconic films they're trying to invoke. False endings are littered throughout which may have read well on paper, but in execution causes the film to drag.

Luckily, Summer of '84 is saved by incredible production design, a killer score, gorgeous cinematography and authentic performances from child actors. Fight me on it if you must, but the kids in this film are absolutely dynamite performers, and handle the less-than-stellar dialogue better than the Stranger Things kids who are reciting lines from the minds of an entire staff.

Ultimately, Summer of '84 is a perfectly acceptable gritty reboot of Stranger Things and fans of nostalgia bait flicks are going to absolutely eat this up. If you can endure the unnecessarily long run-time and clunky dialogue, it's a charming throwback sprinkled with brutality.

Summer of '84 is playing as part of the Cinema Late Shift series at the Capitol Theatre on Saturday, August 18 at 11:59 p.m. and Tuesday August 21 at 7:30 p.m. For more information and tickets, click here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

We’re keeping you informed…
...and it’s what we love to do. From local politics and culture to national news that hits close to home, Scene Magazine has been keeping Cleveland informed for years.

It’s never been more important to support local news sources, especially as we all deal with the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic. Almost everything Scene is about -- our stories, our events, our advertisers -- comes down to getting together. With events on hold, and no print distribution for the foreseeable future, every little bit helps.

A free press means accountability and a well-informed public, and we want to keep our unique and independent reporting available for many, many years to come.

If quality journalism is important to you, please consider a donation to Scene. Every reader contribution is valuable and so appreciated, and goes directly to support our coverage of critical issues and neighborhood culture. Thank you.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Calendar

© 2020 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 241-7550
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.


Website powered by Foundation