Sunday, August 27, 2017

I Know What You Did Last Summer

The solid success of SCREAM, a teen slasher picture that changed the way audiences looked at slasher pictures, led to a long line of copycats. Most were like I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER in that their creators believed SCREAM’s success had less to do with wit and originality than with casting pretty young actors from television and splashing around stage blood.

Columbia’s attempt to turn the Gorton’s fish stick man into a horror icon like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees boasted a screenplay by SCREAM’s Kevin Williamson, based on a Lois Duncan novel read by many kids in the 1970s, an attractive cast, and an arresting premise. Less successful in the acting and plotting categories, nevertheless, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER was a big hit, premiering at #1 at the box office and hanging there for three weeks.

July Fourth weekend in a seashore community. Teenage couples Jennifer Love Hewitt (THE TUXEDO) and Freddie Prinze Jr. (SHE’S ALL THAT) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (in SCREAM 2 the same year) and Ryan Phillippe (CRUEL INTENTIONS) are partying and romancing ahead of going their separate ways to college in the fall. On a curved road at night, they accidentally run over a man with their car. Believing him dead and afraid to report the accident to authorities, they dump the body in the ocean and swear never to speak of the incident again.

One year later, Hewitt receives a mysterious note in the mail: “I know what you did last summer.” Did the victim come back to exact vengeance? Was there a hidden witness to the accident? Or is the note’s author actually one of the group? Williamson’s handling of the mystery isn’t bad, as he sets up a line of red herrings, including Johnny Galecki (THE BIG BANG THEORY) as a nerd with a crush on Hewitt. The main characters and the actors playing them are vapid and unbelievable, but director Jim Gillespie (EYE SEE YOU) delivers some good shocks, and the photography by Denis Crossan (JOYRIDE) and score by John Debney (SPY KIDS) are aces.

Even though the story didn’t seem to have anywhere to go at film’s end, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER spawned a 1999 sequel, I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (natch), starring Hewitt and Prinze, as well as the 2006 DTV I’LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, which has nothing to do with the previous films. It can safely be ignored.

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