I Know What You Did Last Summer

Things I Know What You Did Last Summer has: a pale corpse-ish looking Jennifer Love Hewitt as quiet protagonist Julie, a stress-smoking anti-Buffy Summers Sarah Michelle Gellar as Helen, two unintelligent Ken-dolls, and a road accident in which all of these dumbasses manage to get together and perform the worst executed hit and run EVER.

In terms of trashy 90s slashers, this is a straight up classic. A group of teenagers caught up in a mystery, check. A brunette final girl, double check. The attractive sidekicks, triple check. Truth be told, after everything I’ve heard about this I went in with no expectation of it being good, so maybe that’s why it was surprisingly fun. All I had seen of I Know What You Did Last Summer was what had been parodied so relentlessly in Scary Movie—and having seen the film now I totally get why this was a prime candidate for being picked on.

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Poster art by Laz Marquenez.

The characters for most of the runtime make astonishingly bad choices, which you of course register as such while they’re being made. After they accidentally knock down a man then not-so-accidentally dump his body in the water, a pact is proposed by jock-supreme Barry (Ryan Phillippe) to take the night to their graves. Foreshadowing of their violent deaths? Perhaps. This leads to a chain of decisions that push them deeper and deeper into despair. When the group disband and finally meet up again a year later, it’s because a creepy note has been sent to Julie. I won’t spoil what the note said.

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The cast on set.

In their desperation and fear after a local man, aptly named “The Fisherman”, kills off their prime note-writing suspect, the group clutch at straws and begin investigating. Thankfully, this isn’t set in high school or college so it’s free of those common location restraints and gets to embark on a mystery as reunited besties Helen (Gellar) and Julie (Love Hewitt) begin their terrible detective work. For me, this was the best facet of the film. Getting to see two well-known actresses back in the day embracing this schlocky nightmare was so much fun. I’m used to this genre not treating its ladies particularly well (despite women usually being centre focus in slashers) so it was quite the surprise to witness a heartfelt friendship between the only two decent characters with semi-decent brains. Julie is the only one of them I would trust to look after my kitten, but I know Helen would try her best. They drive out to spy on a relative of their victim from the year before and look for clues, with no experience or tact, making the whole thing much more delightful in its accidental amusement. Subtlety was never the goal here, and amongst the twenty-odd jump scares there’s some engaging character work with the girls that I really enjoyed without having to take it seriously at all.

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Helen and Julie.

From a technical stand point there’s a lot that could’ve been better. I can’t recall one thing about the music, cinematography or direction that stood out and unsurprisingly overall everything looks a bit cheap. We are operating in a very specific movie margin though, so when you go in knowing that it’s not too much of an issue. Love Hewitt and Gellar kept the whole thing from falling apart at the seams with their willingness to go down to the project’s level—and for all the sins committed around them, it all is rather smooth and easy when they’re working together. Are they greatly interesting characters, no; and there are atrocities committed writing-wise that I just cant understand, such as none of them decking Barry for choking Julie. But thankfully these things mostly pertain to Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Barry and most of the film is focused around the strongest team players.

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“Does the insurance cover manslaughter?”

Out of all the many problems the worst crime is the fact the mystery dries up and The Fisherman doesn’t hold an ounce of water in terms of the fear he provokes or in back story. When the answers are revealed, they are revealed to be mightily uninteresting. The best kill by far goes to Helen. I know, she was the one killed, but the manner in which it occurs was so befitting of her beauty pageant persona that she gets the credit. Crawling through broken glass, running a sprint, and almost narrowly escaping a dramatic demise. It’s all perfect. It’s a shame that once she went I wanted to fall asleep. Still, tis the #FearEra season. You’ve got an excuse to watch this now for reasons other than the two female stars! Go!

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stills courtesy of Columbia Pictures  

★★½

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