Summer-of-84

Roadkill Superstar's Anouk Whissell on her horror-thriller Summer of 84

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Aug 10, 2018

Directing duos are fairly common in filmmaking, from Lord and Miller (The LEGO Movie), to the Wachowski Sisters (The Matrix trilogy), to the Russo Brothers (Avengers: Infinity War). But a directing trio? That's the rare yet powerful construction of Roadkill Superstar (RKSS), the French-Canadian band of writer-directors who co-helmed to acclaim with their madcap post-apocalyptic comedy Turbo Kid. Now, RKSS's Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell, and François Simard are ready for the release of their frightening follow-up, Summer of 84.

A creepy slice of suburban terror, Summer of 84 follows the amateur investigation of a potentially paranoid paperboy into his next door neighbor. Sure, Officer Mackey (Rich Sommer) is always ready with a smile or a treat for the local kids who stumble across his cul-de-sac. But when boys start going missing, Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere) rounds up his misfit friends to uncover if this chipper chap might be a homegrown serial killer.

Following Summer of 84's international premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival, SYFY FANGRRLS sat down with Anouk Whissell to dig into the secrets of this teen thriller, her hopes for Turbo Kid 2, and the inner-workings of RKSS. 

First off, we had to ask: how does it work when there are three directors on a single movie? "We've been working together doing short films for over 18 years now," Anouk said of her RKSS colleagues, her brother Yoann-Karl and friend François Simard. "We have a structure that we established. At first, it was really just having fun together as a group of friends, basically. And then we created a little structure. What we do is, when we write, we write together, all together. And it's the only moment where we actually argue. Sometimes it gets ugly, but it's always behind closed doors. Nobody sees that so it's really just in between us. And in prep, we always work closely together as well with storyboard and everything. We try to nail every detail that could go wrong and release a single vision together. It's really, we're always, always together."

"And then on set, that's when we split," she explained. "Because we don't want to create confusion, by having three people talking to everybody." It's a sort of divide-and-conquer technique. François works with cinematographer Jean-Philippe Bernier, who Anouk describes as " kind of a fourth member of RKSS." Yoann-Karl works with the actors. Anouk handles the technical team and department heads. "So, everybody on set knows which one of us to go to. In that way, we're super efficient," she noted. "We're all really looking at the project as it gets done, and giving notes to one another. It's really seamless. Nobody really sees this, but we can communicate with eyes and gestures. That way we keep a hand on all the sides."

Outside of her RKSS, Anouk's made several short films, including "Itsy Bitsy Grampy," "Rhume de Panda," and "Red Head Dead Head."  Asked how the process differs when she's directing on her own, she mused, "I think there's not a big difference really, because we really are a team. But we each have our voice when we establish everything. It feels like, even when with them, I still get to express myself as much as [when I'm on my own]. It's a different dynamic for sure. But it's, yeah, I feel like I can still be myself in a team as when I'm solo."

After the praise that was showered on Turbo Kid, RKSS carefully considered their next move. And while Turbo Kid 2 is in their plans, Anouk said, "We really want to show the range and to show people that we can tackle also a film that's serious." Though they were in talks for several projects, Summer of 84 was the first to come together. And to her delight, it's a total 180 from Turbo Kid. While the sci-fi romp is explosive with vibrant color, chaos, and wildly gory violence, their new horror-thriller is more rooted in reality, dark, and suggestively sinister over outright gruesome. Though it wasn't penned by RKSS — as Turbo Kid was — Anouk told us Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith's script "felt like it was written for us," adding, "We kind of recognize ourselves in the kids, and it was just so weird." 

Another major difference? Their first film had an intense sense of nostalgia for the past,  while Summer of 84 rejects the '80s fetishization that's become common in contemporary film and television set in the era. Because of the emergence of "Stranger Danger" into the cultural landscape, it was crucial to the story that the film takes place in the '80s. But RKSS didn't want allusions to become a cheap ploy for audience engagement. "This was very important for us…We don't really like it ourselves when people are just screaming at the screen and just like, 'Remember the 80s!' and everything," Anouk explained. "We just wanted to be very true to the period. The beginning of the '80s was mostly looked more like the end of the '70s, especially in the suburbs. We really want to put the story forward and to get the reference and everything just to kind of ground it in reality, and in that period." 

With Summer of 84 hitting theaters in the US, RKSS is already at work on their next mysterious project, which Anouk teased would be unlike their other films as "it's not about kids." But this ambitious trio isn't done with kids tales yet. Turbo Kid 2 is on the horizon.

"We already have a script," she revealed, "but wanted to work with it more. We want it to be perfect because the fans are just, they're showing us so much love. There's tattoos and cosplay and everything. We just want it to be perfect, so we're taking our time."

But worry not Turbo fans, it won't be too much time. As to when Turbo Kid 2 might roll into production, Anouk offered, "2019 would be nice."

Summer of 84 opens in theaters August 10 and will be available on VOD and digital August 24.