Set in Ipswich, Oregon in 1984, Summer of ’84 is full of eerie feelings and worried thoughts. Davey Armstrong is a 15 year old who thinks that a killer could be lurking anywhere in his suburban neighborhood. His conspiracy theories begin to come to head when he starts to suspect his own neighbor is a serial killer. Reminiscent of 1980’s classics like The Goonies, but with a Rear Window style edge, Summer of ’84 is a new movie that perfectly hits that nostalgic urge.
After obsessing about a number of disappearances and murders in a nearby area, Davey is elated when the Cape May Slayer writes a letter to the media taking credit for the disappearances in the surrounding area. While his friends might not be as invested in the mystery he wants to find out as much as he can, which includes finding out who the killer is. A boy from his neighborhood and his family have been gone for days and no matter what anyone else thinks, Davey is sure they are victims. After seeing a picture on a milk carton of someone he insists he recognizes, Davey is sure his neighbor, Wayne Mackey. With a little bit of convincing and a cool plan name Davey and his friends are on the hunt for clues.
Even though Summer ’84 is billed as a thriller it has a much stronger coming of age feel to it. Davey is growing up and is dealing with new feelings and new experiences, while also holding onto his more childish beliefs. He wants there to be mystery in his neighborhood and he wants to have an adventure with his friends that will make this summer more exciting. Through his investigation he grows closer to a girl he has a crush on and starts to realize that he doesn’t want to stay in suburbia forever. There are some false reveals that add to the suspense and I enjoyed following along with Davey’s suspicions. Even though the movie wasn’t exactly what I expected at first, it did remind me of some of my favorite elements of Rear Window and other iterations of the suspicious neighbor plot. There is also a really great end of movie payoff that will have you on the edge of your seat.
There is a great Easter Egg that made me smile early in the film. When Davey and his friends go bowling there is a video game labeled Polybius, which is out of order. There is a podcast that I was obsessed with called The Polybius Conspiracy. It was a fictional podcast designed to feel like a documentary investigation, all about this video game known as Polybius that people insisted existed, but really didn’t. If you are looking for a suggestion in the vein of Summer ’84 you can find The Polybius Conspiracy wherever you listen to podcasts from Radiotopia.