"It might all seem normal and routine," declares Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere), the hero of Summer of 84, "but the suburbs are where the craziest shit happens." That was already old news by the year this nostalgic thriller is set, of course, but the movie -- directed by the Montreal collective of Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell -- deserves credit for playing it out in a way that echoes its thesis. Summer of 84 might seem normal and routine at first, another It-ride on the Stranger Things-cycle, back to the childhood of white boys entranced with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter. But by the end, the craziest shit has happened, persuasively, with both memorable style and some emotional power. At first, it seems most concerned with showcasing vintage toy collections and putting ribald pop-culture talk into the mouths of kids. But once Summer of 84 kicks in, it kicks hard.
That ending slices so sharply thanks to a protracted un-spectacular setup. Like a 15-year-old's actual '80s summer, the film has its languors. The plot concerns skinny dreamer Davey, a fanatic for the Bigfoots and aliens of supermarket tabloids, suddenly convinced that the loner cop (Rich Sommer) who lives across the street must be a serial killer. Davey enlists three horndog buddies to track the dude, dig up his garden, map out his jog. In the early going, we're subjected to much historically accurate chatter about the boys' masturbation habits. If you're patient, though, Summer of 84 gains in interest and urgency. Sommer (Mad Men's Harry Crane) makes a first-rate is-he-or-isn't-he creep, his unctuousness indistinguishable from wickedness, and the last 40 minutes zip tensely along.