I Know What You Did Last Summer
- Jennifer Love Hewitt as Julie James
- Sarah Michelle Gellar as Helen Shivers
- Ryan Phillippe as Barry
- Freddie Prinze Jr. as Ray
- Anne Heche as Missy Egan
- Johnny Galecki as Max
Although penned by the same guy who wrote the game changing Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer doesn’t quite fall into the category of classic. And despise that, it’s actually quire a good horror movie. Not really newfangled or unexpected but extremely serviceable and entertaining in what it presents.
In their hometown of Southport, North Carolina, Julie James, her boyfriend Ray, best friend Helen Shivers and her beau Barry are taking part in celebrating the end of high school and the Fourth of July. After Helen is crowned beauty queen, the group continues to celebrate by visiting the beach. After a round of ghost stories and intimate moments, the popular kids hop into Larry’s prized car. As Barry is too drunk and disorderly to drive, sensible Ray takes the wheel. Yet things take a dramatic and drastic turn as their enthusiasm is brought crashing down when they accidentally hit a stranger while driving. Thinking he is dead, the group goes into meltdown. Filled with severe panic over what this could cause them and their future plans, the group agree to dump the body in the river. Julie reluctantly takes part, but feels immensely guilty about her part in it. As they are dumping the body, the man they thought was dead briefly stirs in his dying grasps, causing Barry to push him in the river. This seems to kill him and now the four friends know they are now accountable for murder. As each vows to remain silent about their involvement, this secret will soon weigh heavy on them. A year later and the group have been driven apart by their respective guilt. Julie returns home a shell of her original bubbly self, and things are about to get a lot worse. Receiving an anonymous note in the post that spouts the eponymous title, her fear escalates as she is forced to come into contact with her disparate group of friends once more. Someone obviously is aware of their actions and wants them to pay for it, but just who could it be? The very person makes his presence felt, armed with a fish-hook that he hacks victims with, leaving a growing trail behind him. All the while, he is heading for the terrified quartet who he has an axe to grind with. Investigating, the teens believe all of this terror relates to a specific person, but discover it’s a lot more complicated than it is straightforward. Before more bodies hit the floor, can Julie and her estranged friends uncover who the killer is?
As I previously referenced, I Know What You Did Last Summer is no Scream, and yet this is sometimes why there is unfair dissent us aimed at the film. Sure it’s not the hip, self-referential classic, but even though its traditional, it gets the job done handsomely. Jim Gillespie has a nice handle on things and manages some immensely good scares and jolts of nerve jangling. As a movie, it has a good sense of mystery to it which for me is a plus in a horror movie. It doesn’t take a genius to work out some of it, but it can be surprising when it wants to be. Not that it’s without plot contrivances and a little bit too much complexity, but by and large keeps you watching. The movie comes apart in the last act, where it attempts to be overly smart but ends up getting a bit ahead of itself. But for the main duration, thanks to a good script from Kevin Williamson, I Know What You Did Last Summer still has a lot of atmosphere and effective use of foreshadowing. There is also something very eerie about the fishing town setting, added to this is the moody colour palette. A shivering and strangely melodic score further brings tension to the piece.
A cast of largely 90’s idols play their parts well, even if the characters are somewhat lacking in quarters. Jennifer Love Hewitt is our main focal point; the good and largely pure girl who genuinely feels guilty about her part in the previous summer’s events. A nice vulnerability is clear in her work and it suits the role of Julie, benefiting from a quiet determination too. Out of all the characters, Julie is the one that you have the most sympathy for. Sarah Michelle Gellar, while not kicking ass in style as she did in Buffy, is very well used as the confused beauty who might be somewhat shallow, but is far from a bad person. Playing the part of resident jerk, Ryan Phillippe does a credible job of really making us despise the spoiled little brat that is Barry. You do feel genuine resentment towards the character because of his selfish actions and lack of concern for anyone but himself. Freddie Prinze Jr is the main person who is given a serious lack of things to do. And no amount of enthusiasm can perk his part up. Anne Heche provides unusual support as someone who may be linked to the case and has the off-kilter vibe to set you on edge. Johnny Galecki briefly but memorably has a role as the rather unfortunate first victim of the killer.
No classic of horror but the provider of some good scares and attractive cast, I Know What You Did Last Summer deserves a bit more recognition than its received.