Written by Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith, and released in 2018, Summer of 84 is a horror thriller about a group of suburban kids, keen to uncover the identity of a serial killer operating within their local area. The events of the movie take place in 1984, in Ipswich, Oregon, and revolve around four teenagers: Davey Armstrong, Tommy ‘Eats’ Eaton, Dale ‘Woody’ Woodworth, and Curtis Farraday.
If you have never watched Summer of 84, then read no further. Instead, set aside two hours of your time and give it a watch. You will thank me for it later.
If you have watched Summer of 84, then please continue reading, because in this post I am highlighting thirteen important details about the movie. From in-jokes and background info to cultural references and more, these are the thirteen things about Summer of 84 you really should know.
Summer of 84 was directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell. If those three names sound familiar it is because the trio previously wrote and directed the cult action-comedy, Turbo Kid (2015) – an ’80s-inspired homage to the Mad Max movies.
If you have still not watched Turbo Kid, stick it on your list – it’s awesome!
The horror connection
Judah Lewis, who plays the role of ‘Eats’ in Summer of 84 is no stranger to horror movies. In addition to his involvement in this movie, Lewis also played the lead role of Cole Johnson in the horror comedy, The Babysitter (2017), as well as its sequel, The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020).
One of the defining characteristics of lead character, Davey Armstrong, is his interest in mysteries and conspiracy theories. He reads Hardy Boys novels, is suspicious of many things, and his mind is always going overtime thinking about the world around him.
To highlight Davey’s inquisitive nature, his bedroom wall is covered in clippings from a newspaper called the World Wide Journal. The paper specialises in sensationalist material and conspiracy theories, and Davey collects some of its zaniest headlines.
Although the clippings are only briefly shown on screen, headlines that cover his wall include:
- Cannibal Society In Sewer System?
- 2 Years Left Before Haley’s Comet Hits Earth
- Boy Coughs Up His Own Twin!
- Cursed Fog Terrorises Small Town
- Hollow Earth Entrance Found
- Book Made From Human Flesh
- 5 Easy Voodoo Spells For Beginners
- Secret Nazi Base On Moon Revealed
- Flying Saucers Caught On Camera
- Proof Soviet Union Has Captured The Loch Ness Monster
- Virgin Mary Statue Cries Blood
- Hitler Cloned? 4th Reich In Motion
In Summer of 84, it is established that 13 children have gone missing within the district of Cape May, all supposedly at the hands of the mysterious and deadly, Cape May Slayer. This plot point about missing children, has some connection to real-world events.
In the US, during the ’80s, an increasing number of children were being reported as missing. This led to the creation of The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which was founded in 1984 – the same year the movie is set.
In the movie, Dusty Dewitt, one of the 13 missing children, is featured on the side of a milk carton. Dusty’s image is accompanied by a short description and sits under the caption: ‘Missing – Have you seen this young man?’
During the 1980s, it became common practice in the US to place images of missing children on the sides of milk cartons. This practice came into effect in 1984.
Flashback to the ‘80s
To help establish the time period, Summer of 84 features various references to the 1980s, from cars and clothing to social and political nods, including references to the Presidential election.
Movies of the decade also get a mention, with both Return of the Jedi (1983) and Gremlins (1984) becoming a topic of conversation in the film.
Arguably two of Summer of 84‘s biggest influences are the ’80s movies, The Goonies and The Burbs. The first movie focuses on a gang of kids who uncover a mystery, while the second tells the story of a group of suburbanites who suspect their neighbours might be killers.
Despite the influence these movies have on Summer of 84‘s story, neither are specifically referenced by any characters in the film – and here is why. Summer of 84 is set during 1984, but The Goonies wasn’t released until 1985, and The Burbs didn’t make its big screen debut until 1989.
The cruelest summer
The song ‘Cruel Summer‘, by British girl group Bananarama, can be heard in Summer of 84, during a scene in which the kids go bowling. The song is largely included as a way to foreshadow the cruel summer that lies ahead for the gang.
However, Cruel Summer has another ’80s connection as it featured in the movie, The Karate Kid. The Karate Kid was released in June 1984 – the same month and year the events of Summer of 84 take place.
During the bowling scene (as mentioned above), Eats and Woody share an exchange while stood in front of some arcade cabinets. One of the cabinets is the fictional game, Polybius, which is noted as being ‘out of order’.
Although there are no records of it really existing, according to urban legend, Polybius was a real arcade game. Legend has it, Polybius was placed into arcades in Oregon during the 1980s, by supposed men in black, as part of a government experiment to measure psychoactive effects in players.
The sounds of summer
In keeping with the ’80s-vibe of the film, the score to Summer of 84 is composed of synthwave music. Although synthwave music has its origins in the mid-’00s, it is often associated with the 1980s and electro music.
The score was written by Le Matos, aka Jean-Philippe Bernier and Jean-Nicolas Leupi. Le Matos are the same duo behind the soundtrack to Turbo Kid.
Figure it out
And sticking with the Turbo Kid connection, just under halfway into the movie, Davey opens up his closet to put away some of his belongings. Next to a pair of G.I. Joe walkie-talkies is an action figure of Turbo Kid.
Throughout the movie, Davey, Eats, Woody, and Farraday play a game called Manhunt. The game, which is played at night, is a variation on the game of tag and involves two teams (hiders and seekers), who chase one another in the dark.
Although Manhunt is featured in the film because it was a popular children’s game during the 1980s, its inclusion is also a nod to the ‘man hunt’ that takes place in the story. The man hunt for the Cape May Slayer.
One last scare
And finally, towards the end of the movie, Davey and Woody expose Officer Mackey as the Cape May Slayer. With his secret revealed, Mackey temporarily disappears, only to reappear in Davey’s bedroom during the final act, to take his revenge.
His ‘reappearance’ isn’t just part of the story – it plays into the standard horror movie trope of killers returning for one last scare.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post about Summer of 84 on It’s A Stampede!. For more movie-related content, be sure to take a look around this blog, and don’t forget to check out the recommended reads below where you will find more horrific delights.