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I Know What You Did Last Summer

movie review by
Gary Johnson

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Kevin Williamson's first-produced screenplay was the sleeper hit Scream (directed by Wes Craven), and now he returns with a new horror tale--I Know What You Did Last Summer. Unfortunately, the promise of Scream remains absent throughout most of this movie. Scream played with the conventions of the slasher movie genre. It was witty, funny, and frequently frightening. But I Know What You Did Last Summer is much more straightforward and conventional. In fact, it's a throwback to the days of slasher movies such as Friday the 13th and Halloween--the kind of movie that Scream poked fun at.

I Know What You Did Last Summer gives us a quartet of teenagers in a small New England town. Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar of Warner Bros. Television's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has just won the coveted Croaker Queen beauty contest. Her boyfriend Barry (Ryan Phillippe) is the high school football quarterback. Her friend is the smart and ambitious Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt of FOX Television's Party of Five). And Julie's boyfriend Ray (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) dreams of heading to New York to become a writer. After Helen wins the beauty contest, they party on the beach, telling horror stories about a hook-handed man who killed young lovers. As they swerve home along the shoreline road in Barry's BMW, a shape suddenly looms in the lights. Before they know what has happened, they've skidded to a stop in the middle of the road. When they get out to check what has happened, they find a dead (?) man on the side of the road. They know what they should do, but they've been drinking. If they turn to the police, all of their post-high school dreams are likely to be shattered--no college football for Barry, no law school for Julie, no heading to New York for Helen or Ray. So they quickly decide to dispose of the body. A year passes and then the notes start to arrive: "I know what you did last summer." And soon afterwards, the bodies start to pile up.

This film represents the feature film debut of Scottish filmmaker Jim Gillespie. He captures on film several genuinely suspenseful scenes, but he can't overcome the movie's ordinariness. Most of I Know What You Did Last Summer feels like we've seen it before. At its core, the movie is really about a faceless killer in a rain slicker who carries an ice hook and creeps through houses and up staircases without being heard. Does that sound familiar? Maybe he has a different outfit and a different murder weapon than Jason or Michael, but the results are the same. You can even guess who will live and die based on each character's morality: good people live and bad people die.

I Know What You Did Last Summer is a by-the-numbers thriller. It's not bad, but it's not very imaginative either. And it's definitely not half as good as Scream.

[rating: 2 of 4 stars]

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