Summer Of 84 (2018) is a blast – from the perfectly recreated past.

Style often threatens to overshadow substance in this entertaining and rewardingly dark serial killer thriller as its slavish devotion to perfectly recreating its 1980s setting sometimes takes the focus off the characters and story. Riding that wave of nostalgia for the likes of “The Goonies” that’s seen “Stranger Things” become such a hit, “The Summer Of ’84” uses that cosy familiarity and rose-tinted Reaganite spectacles to lull you into something of a false sense of security before delivering such a ferociously dark twist that you may want to sue for narrative whiplash.

Over the past ten years, thirteen teenage boys have vanished in the otherwise quaint and picturesque town of Cape May, Oregon but the police have never connected the cases. But when a local newspaper receives an anonymous letter from someone claiming to be responsible for murdering the missing boys, Davey Armstrong begins to suspect that his neighbor Wayne Mackey, a popular local police officer, may just be the Cape May Slayer. Although his friends reject his outlandish conspiracy theory, when a boy Davey had seen in Mackey’s house goes missing and an appeal for witnesses appears on the back of a milk carton days later, they agree to help him investigate.

Nostalgia aside, this is a solidly constructed mystery thriller, one that seems like a lot of harmless fun until things take a very serious turn as the killer’s true identity is revealed. It juggles a lot of familiar tropes well and for the most part feels like the kind of ‘last summer of high school’ adventure movies that they just don’t make any more. The performances are good, the production values impeccable in terms of creating the authentic hsitoric ambience and the shocks, when they come, are brutal and effective.

It’s only really in its pace – especially at the start – and lack of humour that there is room for improvement. It takes a while to really get going and it’s in those early stages that you get the feeling the makers were more entranced by their ersatz eighties than focussed on the unfolding narrative and while there are occasional amusing moments here and there, the gang of kids are so achingly similar in set-up to The Goonies that the absence of a stronger comic through line is a palpable absence.

All-in-all though, it’s a refreshingly zesty little movie – perhaps more thriller than horror but if serial killers are your thing, then you’re probably going to like this – and love the ending.