I Know What You Did Last Summer
Directed by Jim Gillespie. Starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze, Johnny Galecki, Bridgette Wilson, Anne Heche, Muse Watson. (1997, R, 100 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 17, 1997
So Scream wasn't a fluke. Who'da thunk it? That film's screenwriter, Kevin Williamson, returns with yet another gory teen-trauma tale that both looks and feels ripped (sticky eviscera and all) from that much-beloved splatter movie boom of the early and mid Eighties. Taking its cue from such stalk 'n' slash low-budgeters as Happy Birthday to Me and Prom Night, I Know What You Did Last Summer slickly resurrects so many of the hallowed trappings of those films that it might as well be a long-lost cousin. Adapted from the Lois Duncan novel, the story revolves around a quartet of teens who one night find themselves on the running end of a deadly hit and run. While Julie (Hewitt) wants to call the police and report the accident immediately, the boorish, drunken jock Barry (Phillippe) convinces her and the other two passengers Helen (Gellar) and Ray (Prinze, Jr.) to dump the body in the nearby Atlantic. Barry's reasoning -- foggy at best -- is that the cops will smell the liquor reek all over the car and assume he was the one driving, thus sending him to jail and nixing his All-Star-Team dreams. Right. Cut to “one year later.” All four of the friends have gone their separate ways, and all of them are shadowed by the dark cloud of guilt, when Julie receives an anonymous note bearing the titular inscription. Before long, the four are being viciously stalked by a guy who looks like the Gorton's Fisherman From Hell, which prompts the question: Is that a fish stick in your hand or are you just happy to kill me? From here, I Know What You Did Last Summer proceeds along a fairly predictable track, with minor and major characters alike turning up dead, deader, and deadest at every available opportunity. Heche makes a goofy yet disturbing cameo of sorts as a white-trash swamp mama, but this is not nearly as comically self-referential a piece of work as Williamson's Scream. Which isn't to say it's not scary as a sack full of Jesse Helms' nipples. It is. More so, even. Gillespie knows how to tighten the screws until it's all you can do to keep from gagging on the adrenaline. Rarely have I seen an audience do the old “leap 'n' shriek” so many times during the course of a single film. In unison, no less. Most of the splatter movies I remember -- even the ones I liked -- ended up looking stupid and mildly degrading once I breached puberty. I Know What You Did Last Summer is neither, and despite an inordinately complicated third-act resolution, it's head-and-shoulders above most so-called suspense films out there today.