Super 8 is a super fun summer movie. It’s also interesting to watch as a writer.
Gimmick. Dwight V. Swayne talks about gimmicks in Techniques of the Selling Writer. He says, “Chose something that evokes a strong emotional response in the hero.” His example is a necklace. Bingo. The boy has a locket of his dead mother’s. It’s his most treasured possession. When it’s taken from him, he makes sure he gets it back - even if he has to take it from the pocket of a dead man. His love interest asks about it. And at the end, what he does with the locket symbolizes what he must do with his life.
Theme. The main character explicitly states the theme, not once, but twice. It was something like “Even when bad things happen, you can still live.”
Keep the monster in the closet. The monster is more fun when you can’t see it. It’s much better to imagine the monster when you see horror fall over a character’s face, or hear awful noises and screams while something (in one fun case, a revolving sign) blocks the view.
I was 20 in 1979. Super 8 in set in some kind of amalgam of 1968-1980. A Walkman plays a fun part in the movie, but it wasn’t actually introduced in the US until 1980. A college friend had one that he had bought in Japan while traveling their with his oilman father, and I remember us all marveling over it in the college library in 1979. If only I had had money and smarts, I could have bought stock. Instead I just listened for a few seconds and passed the foam headset to the next listener.