If you’re looking for a summer film that captures the magic of filmmaking at its essence, then check out Super 8. Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed J.J. Abrams, Super 8 makes you feel genuinely feel like it’s 1979 all over again, and it feels pretty cool.

Some might say that Super 8 is Stand By Me meets District 9. Others might say it’s E.T. meets Cloverfield. There are other times when you might think you’re watching Goonies, Flight of the Navigator, or some other film from that time period. But regardless, Super 8 is a welcome entry to genre of 1970s or 80s movie where a group of young boys are involved in a major life-altering event and have a much clearer picture of what’s going on than the adults around them.

Super 8 takes place in small Ohio town in 1979 where a group of approximately 12-year old boys are filming a movie on a Super 8 camera, much like Abrams actually did in his youth. The boys are hoping to enter and win a film competition. In the process of shooting a late-night scene, they witness an accident by an Air Force train and capture some footage of the incident. Not long afterward, unexplained events begin happening in the town. People start to disappear, there are regular power outages, and various objects suddenly go missing.

Deputy Sheriff Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) is essentially charged with trying to solve the mystery of what’s going on. However he is overwhelmed by the task, and his only suspicions are that the Air Force – which is cleaning the wreckage from the accident – is hiding valuable information. Noah Emmerich plays Air Force Colonel Nelec whose intentions seem dubious.

In the meantime, Lamb’s son Joe (Joel Courtney) is actively involved in helping his friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) make a zombie movie for the aforementioned competition. The father-son relationship has been strained since the death of Joe’s mother, and tensions build as young Joe begins to develop a relationship with Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), a girl whose father Jackson does not approve.

Starring in his first ever movie, Courtney brings an innocence and humility to his character that makes him immensely likable. While he’s still very young, this debut performance marks an auspicious beginning to his career. Arguably the best performance in Super 8 comes from Fanning, the younger sister Dakota Fanning who shows that acting ability may very well be genetic. Despite being just 13 years old (and only 12 at the time of filming), Fanning has a poise and stage presence that would make actresses three times her age jealous.

Chandler is solid in the role as the lead adult, although he’s very much secondary to the storylines involving the kids. Best known for playing the football coach in television show Friday Night Lights, Chandler is strong and convincing as an unafraid, but confused sheriff and an even more confused father.

Super 8 is certainly a suspenseful movie that will keep you at the edge of your seat. Abrams is careful not to reveal too much of the mysterious force too early, so there’s an ongoing level of guesswork that keeps you intrigued. However, the suspenseful moments are broken up by moments of hilarity as Joe, Charles, and company work on making their film with a childlike naivete that’s impossible not to find endearing.

There is a certain Spielbergian heart to Super 8, and the film evokes a clear sense of nostalgia. While there are certainly predictable and campy parts of the movie, at the end of the day you’ll find yourself saying “I wish movies were still made like this.” A movie like Super 8 hasn’t come out in over 20 years, and there may never be another one like it.

So take a trip back in time, and enjoy Super 8, the summer’s most pleasant surprise.