Summer of 84 (Gunpowder and Sky) Blu-ray Review + Screenshots



Studio: Gunpowder and Sky

Release Date: August 10th, 2018 (theatrical) / September 6th, 2018 (blu-ray)

Run Time: 105 mins

Region Code: REGION FREE

Picture: 1080p (2.39:1 aspect ratio)

Sound: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: None

Starring: Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery

Written by Matt Leslie, Stephen J. Smith

Directed by Fran├žois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell

Rating: Not Rated (language and some disturbing images)



Summer of 84 is brought to us by Gunpowder and Sky, who made the film, and is presented on a BD-R instead of a regular, pressed blu-ray.

THE FILM

After suspecting that their police officer neighbor is a serial killer, a group of teenage friends spends their summer spying on him and gathering evidence, but as they get closer to discovering the truth, things get dangerous.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. It was a fun time to be a kid because there was no worrying about the children’s safety because the entire neighborhood knew who we were. They would call our parents the moment we did something wrong. This meant that we had the freedom to go anywhere in the town we wanted, but we also had the safety of all the people in the town. It was really nice. Of course, if we did something wrong we would get our asses handed to us the moment we got home, but we rarely did anything that would call for that kind of punishment.

One of the things that Summer of 84 gets right about the 80’s is just this. There is a scene where, after breaking into the shed of the neighbor they suspect to be a serial killer, the boys present the evidence they have found to the parents of the group’s leader, Davey. The parents hear them out, call bullshit, and then march the kids over to the suspected serial killer’s house to make the kids apologize. Everything about this scene rang true to me. I have been in that situation where something happens and then a parent (usually the father) drags our group to that house to apologize to the person about our transgression. Keep in mind that we never suspected that any of our neighbors were serial killers, but take that out of the scene and you have exactly what I, and many others at that age, have had to do.



The film also gets other things right about the period and how kids were back then. If you went to any gas station, bowling alley, movie theater, fast food restaurant, or arcade you would know instantly that there was a group of kids in there just by the pile of bikes that were around the entrance. We never locked up our bikes. We just dumped them wherever we went. The treehouse is a staple of nostalgic kids movies and this is true to life as well. The lusting over the daughter of the next door neighbor. The first job of delivery the local newspaper. All of these things either I or my friends did when we were that age.

The film is above anything else a horror film. Many have compared it to Stranger Things and while I can see that comparison, I think that it is a shallow comparison. Stranger Things is more of a sci-fi TV show that captures that same time but also throws references at you all the time. Summer of 84 doesn’t really do that. Sure, there are references to films, TV shows, and music of the time, but it never throws it at you with no regard to how it is being referenced. In Stranger Things, which takes place around the same time as Summer of 84, has one of the kids has an Evil Dead poster hanging up in their room. The likely hood of a kid in the middle of Indiana having this poster is slim to none, but the show puts in there anyway.



Now the kids in Summer of 84 make references to films, but they are more likely references that kids of that time period would say. One of the kids wants to sleep over at Davey’s house. Davey’s response is “We’ll make popcorn and watch Close Encounters”. This makes so much more sense than if Davey said: “We’ll make popcorn and watch Cannibal Holocaust.” It is things like this that make me want to just turn off a film. No kid in a normal family would have ever seen a film like Cannibal Holocaust, but I know that an 80s nostalgic show like Stranger Things would want the world to think otherwise.

Anyway, getting back the film. Summer of 84 has some great performances by the cast who play the kids. None of them seem too old to play that age and they feel like they have been friends for a long time. Sometimes you will watch a film and know that the actors who play characters who are supposed to be lifelong friends have just met the previous day. Here, the kids play everything natural and real.



Like I said before, Summer of 84 is a horror film and is one of the rare horror films that end with a completely bleak outlook on the lives of the characters. I will not spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but this film gets REALLY dark towards the end. The last fifteen or so minutes are a gut punch to the viewer and it actually works. There are so many films that try to do this, but fail because they didn’t push it far enough. Summer of 84 pushes until the characters, and the audience, crack. This was one ending that got me and I had a hard time shaking it off. When I went to work the next day, I told everyone who came close to me about the film and even got a few to actually watch it. Those who did watch it had the same reaction I did: “Holy fuck! What did I just see?” The ending is completely earned and isn’t forced onto the characters or the audience. You could really see that happening.

Summer of 84 is one of the best films of 2018. The characters are strong and well played by a very eager cast, the filmmaking on display is beautiful and haunting, and the ending is just brutal and uncompromising. The film is a fun mystery type film that grows darker the further the runtime goes, but it is worth the watch. I love this film and sing its praises all the time. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for something to scare the shit out of them.



THE PICTURE AND THE SOUND

Summer of 84 is brought to us by Gunpowder and Sky, who made the film, and the results are beautiful. The film was shot was a pretty muted color palette for most of the film. There are times when color pops, but that is mostly in the third act and I am not really telling anything about that third act. Regardless, Summer of 84 looks great on blu-ray. Blacks are inky and detail is high. The film was shot digitally but never really has that digital feel to it. This is a good looking transfer.

The sound, brought to us via a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, is really nice. Dialogue is crisp and clear, the effects are strong, and the electronic score is just right. The filmmakers do a great job with the sound mixing and that is evident with this track.

THE PACKAGING


The front cover features the film’s original theatrical poster, which I really like.


The back cover is where the packaging falls apart. The text at the bottom where the credits for the film are located are blurry and unreadable. This is really unacceptable as this really ruins the packaging for me. This something that could have been avoided.


The disc features the same poster art as the front cover. There again is something that could have been avoided: at the bottom of the disc is supposed to have the words “Blu-ray disc”. The words are still there but are covered up by a barcode. This barcode, or the words, could have been put anywhere on the disc. Why did the designers have to put them in the same place?

The disc is REGION FREE

THE FEATURES



Director’s Commentary with RKSS. Filmmakers Francois Simard, Anouck Whissell, and Yoann-Karl-Whissell with a witty and entertaining track in both English and French (presented as two different tracks)

Blooper Reel (4m 22s, HD) This is a rare breed nowadays: an entertaining blooper reel. Every type of blooper and fail is on display here and the cast takes them all in stride.

Stills Gallery (1m 22s, HD) A series of stills goes by as a track from the film’s outstanding score plays.

I am a bit disappointed that the film’s theatrical trailer has not been included and no making of either.


OVERALL

Summer of 84 is a hell of a horror/thriller that will get under your skin while being incredibly entertaining. The film is definitely going on my best of list while the blu-ray might end up on an honorable mentions list. This is due to the fact that the disc is a BD-R (while other countries get a pressed disc) and the failings in the packaging department. The picture and sound are great and the special features, while sparse, are really entertaining. The film is the most important aspect and it is a home run. Luckily, this disc doesn’t cost too much and you can pick it up for about ten bucks. I would recommend this disc to fans of the film and those looking for an under the radar horror flick, despite the release’s shortcomings.

MORE SCREENSHOTS (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!!)