From Music to Style, ‘Summer of 84’ Screams 1980s

When I first watched Summer of 84, the brilliant retro thriller from Roadkill Superstar Films (RKSS), I fell in love with the deep-seated mystery, the film’s oppressive air of dread and trepidation and the maturity-demanding exploits that the four boys in the film were fated to undertake. It wasn’t until after the movie ended when I noticed the synthesizer-driven closing credit score that sounded so much like something John Carpenter would have composed. I realized that, in between the whodunit and the sexually-charged teenage banter, that Summer of 84 is a trip back to the ’80s, whole and complete, and I had to immediately watch the whole thing again to see just how many 30 year old references I could find. As someone who grew up in the ’80s, I felt like this was a task custom made for me.

But first, a little background on the film. Summer of 84 is a Gunpowder and Sky film from Bright Light Pictures, and was created by Turbo Kid’s François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell. The cast includes Graham Verchere (Fargo TV series), Judah Lewis (The Babysitter 2017), Caleb Emery (Goosebumps 2015), Cory Gruter-Andrew (The 100 TV series), Tiera Skovbye (Riverdale TV series), Rich Sommer (Mad Men TV series) and Jason Gray-Stanford (Monk TV series). Here’s the synopsis:

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

You can read our review of the film here. And… the trailer.


Here are the ’80s nods I noticed in my re-watch.


The Music

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  • Surprisingly, there weren’t many ’80s songs on the soundtrack, although I did catch “Cruel Summer” from Bananarama.
  • Like I mentioned above, the score – especially the intro and outro credit music – was very Carpenter-esque and every composition sounded like something straight out of The Fog or Escape From New York.
  • There was a Ramones patch on Eats’ jacket
  • Eats also wore a Bad Religion t-shirt
  • There was a synthesizer player at the Cape May Fair

TV and Movies References

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At different points in the film, someone mentioned…

  • Magnum PI TV series
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
  • Gremlins (1984)
  • GI Joe (in walkie talkie form) and Cobra Commander

The Toys and Games

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  • Davey rides a Huffy Pro Thunder bicycle
  • Children still played outside in the ’80s, even teens. The neighborhood kids in Summer of 84 all got together after dark and played manhunt with flashlights
  • The local hangout was the bowling alley
  • Davey had a Colecovision gaming console box in his room
  • At one point, Davey sat in front of ’80s versions of Twister, Sorry! and Monopoly boxes

The Cars

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  • There were several Ford wood paneled station wagons (at least one had the tail gunner seat and fifth rear door)
  • Eats’ brother, Kyle, drove an electric blue Iroc Z Camaro
  • Davey’s dad’s Channel 6 news vehicle was an ’80s model minivan
  • The Cape May cops drove Chevy Caprices
  • I saw at least one 81 Buick Regal
  • Nikki’s parents’ car was Custard Brown, a popular color in the ’80s

The Clothes and Hair

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  • Davey wore a Casio calculator watch
  • A random lady was wearing a 2 piece windbreaker tracksuit
  • Boys’ and men’s hair was a long and shaggy
  • Farraday wore big, wire-framed glasses
  • Woody wore an Adidas t-shirt
  • Davey wore a Vuarnet jacket
  • Davey had Reebok sneakers
  • I saw several rainbows – suspenders and shirts
  • Nikki wore the iconic side ponytail
  • She also wore one of those wide elastic belts around her shirt
  • There was at least one Reebok sweatshirt sighted
  • Woody mentions his Calvin Klein underwear
  • Mackey wore those short-short basketball shorts with racing stripes when he went out running
  • He also sported a fuzzy headband
  • One of the girls at the Fair was wearing heart-shaped sunglasses
  • There wasn’t much big hair, but there was some

The Posters, Books and Magazines

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  • Davey was reading a Hardy Boys book, The Shore Road Mystery (not necessarily an ’80s nod, since the book came out in the ’20s, but they were still popular in the ’80s)
  • The boys kept stumbling across copies of the fake American Men’s Boudoir magazine, much like the Playboys that teenagers always manage to find… at least until we discovered the internet
  • Davey’s room was plastered in pages from the Weekly World News-like newspaper, Worldwide Journal
  • In the ’80s, you could buy Encyclopedia Britannica, one book per week, at the grocery store. Davey had a few of them and even used one to look up what sodium hydroxide was
  • Davey had an Atari poster in his room
  • He also had a poster for The Thing
  • And he had a Hardcore 81 poster from the band, D.O.A.

What Was In The News

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  • One of the Worldwide Journal headlines mentioned Haley’s comet
  • Eats’ family had a Reagan Bush political sign in their front yard
  • Davey’s dad mentioned the Cold War while watching the news
  • One of the kids says you can get AIDS from touching someone else’s garbage

The Machines

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  • Mackey had a cordless phone, complete with extendable antenna
  • Davey’s family had a wall phone with a huge cord that could reach all the way to the front door
  • It was pre-cell phones, so they boys talked to each other over walkie talkies
  • Davey’s dad’s news camera was huge and blocky, much like camcorders were back then
  • The kids did not have computers in their rooms and had to go to the library to use them
  • The only way to look up old newspaper articles was with a microfiche machine
  • Eats’ listened to The Ramones on his Walkman

Some Miscellaneous Stuff

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  • Although he was nervous because he thought the guy was a serial killer, Davey was never afraid to go in Mackey’s house to help him move something because he thought the guy was a pervert. Kids being asked to help adults was normal and accepted and not sketchy at all
  • Divorce was still a big deal
  • Davey’s family ate Kraft Macaroni and Cheese at TV trays in the living room rather than at the kitchen table
  • Farraday mentions wishing he had gone to Space Camp
  • Missing kids could still be found on milk cartons
  • Soda came in a glass bottle
  • Farraday looks like River Phoenix in Explorers
  • Officer Mackey looks like Zach Galligan from Gremlins
  • Summer of 84 took place in Ipswich, Oregon, making me think of Lovecraft, although it’s probably a coincidence… especially since Lovecraft is not an ’80s nod, even if it was intentional

This about wraps up my list of ’80s nods in Summer of 84. Have you watched the film yet? What did you think? Did I miss anything important? Let me know in the comments so I can add it! Summer of 84 will be in theaters August 10 and on VOD and Digital HD August 24.

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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