I Know What You Did Last Summer Oct 28, 2020 10:23:27 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Oct 28, 2020 10:23:27 GMT -5
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Directed by: Jim Gillespie
Directed by: Jim Gillespie
Freddie Prinze Jr, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ryan Phillippe in I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Credit has to be given to I Know What You Did Last Summer for a couple different things. Lois Duncan's popular novel from 1973 enjoyed its run as a work of teen horror fiction not only upon release but well into the 1990s when its film adaptation hit theaters. The film itself helped revitalize the slasher genre for a new generation, aided by coming hot off the heels of Wes Craven's Scream. For many my age, the book and/or movie introduced them to the horror genre, and its title has become something of a punchline, even to this day. In particular, I know what I did this past summer amidst a global pandemic: not a damn thing!
The film opens on the Fourth of July in 1996, which will prove to be a fateful day for a quartet of friends — Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), and Barry (Ryan Phillippe) — as they engage in a night of drunken debauchery before hitting the road. Ray, the sober driver, is distracted by Barry's intoxicated shenanigans on a lonely, winding road when he inadvertently strikes a passenger in the street. The man is bloodied and barely alive, and after several minutes of arguing about how to proceed, the four dump the body off a cliff and leave him to drown.
Fast-forward a year later. The long, hot summer nights make the unnerved Julie feel more guilt-ridden; meanwhile, Ray has embraced life as a deckhand, Helen works at her family's store, and Barry is a star college quarterback. The gaggle of friends is collectively reminded of their wrongdoing when they each receive a simple, handwritten note addressed to each of them: "I know what you did last summer." When pursuing the man he believes is responsible for the harassment, Barry is run over by a man in a slicker with a meat-hook for a hand. This sets into motion many violent clashes with the mysterious figure.
As an ardent horror fan, I Know What You Did Last Summer is too slick for my liking. Its direction is akin to a CW program; like an episode of Smallville deemed too dark for television. It features impossibly attractive actors clearly selected for their beauty above their acting abilities. Hewitt manages to be the only soul with any kind of charisma and dimensionality to her character. The oceanic setting loans itself to some moody cinematography that favors inky blacks and dusky teals in the color palette that make the presentation attractive (a credit to cinematographer Denis Crossan), but the pacing is ultimately so reliant on teases and jolts that it becomes disheartening to realize that's about the extent of the scares director Jim Gillespie can muster.
If there's a surprising element to be found, it's the emotional heft of the story birthed from the central conflict. The characters all handle guilt in different ways: Julie withdraws from her friends and family, Helen picks up more shifts despite having to work under the authority of her bitchy sister, Ray completely isolates himself at sea, and Barry seeks to surround himself with adoration brought on by his life of privilege. When the four regroup one year after the events, they are all so isolated in their own lives and states-of-mind that it's hard to believe these individuals were ever friends at all. Where screenwriter Kevin Williamson plays conservative with the film's body-count — by slasher standards at least — he somewhat compensates in allowing a sliver of human interest to manifest.
Comparisons to Scream should remain in genre and era early; where Craven's iconic send-up worked to self-consciously play by the tropes of the larger genre, I Know What You Did Last Summer follows them in a straight-forward, unironic manner. I Know What You Did Last Summer is flawed but its appeal isn't hard to discern.
NOTE: My review of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer: stevethemovieman.proboards.com/thread/6560/last-summer
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze, Jr, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Anne Heche, Johnny Galecki, and Bridgette Wilson. Directed by: Jim Gillespie.