You can’t keep a good man — or a screen ghoul — down, as evidenced in the highly manipulative, predictable scream sequel “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.” This follow-up to last year’s successful teens-in-jeopardy opus piles on the chills, thrills and body count. Purists will find the pic’s obviousness disappointing, but there’s no question that the film delivers a sufficient shock quotient to satisfy its youthful target audience and rack up potent B.O. and buoyant action in ancillaries.
The new chapter begins on the first anniversary of the previous encounter. Survivor Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) is attending college, and Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is catching fish on his boat in North Carolina. He invites her back for Fourth of July celebrations, but Julie is still haunted by nightmares about the hook-handed, slicker-coated killer Ben Willis (Muse Watson) , who terrorized and murdered her friends before he was apparently killed.
Then the phone rings at her apartment and roommate Karla (Brandy) is offered a Bahamas vacation for four from a local radio program if she can answer a question: What is the capital of Brazil? After fumbling through the kitchen cabinets for a coffee canister, she answers “Rio de Janeiro” and is awarded the prize.
For those who were sleeping in geography class, this exchange will seem rather ordinary. But for viewers who know the correct answer is Brasilia, it’s the first indication of imminent doom.
Karla invites her squeeze, Tyrell (Mekhi Phifer), and Jennifer calls Ray to join the fun. But he’s hesitant; only after hanging up the phone does he decide to go on the vacation. On his way north with a buddy to surprise Karla, in the still of the night he stumbles upon a stalled car and a body in the road. A turn of the head later, the familiar hook has impaled his friend. Ray runs for his life and barely escapes with his skin.
Julie reluctantly agrees to include nice guy Will (Matthew Settle) in her travel plans. A plane and boat ride later, they arrive in the secluded island paradise of Tower Bay. But this perfect picture will be short-lived. The surly manager (Jeffrey Combs) tosses off the fact that it’s closing day of the season and monsoons are expected tomorrow. As he hands out the keys, he also ominously notes that they’re being given the honeymoon suites, rooms rarely booked at the resort.
The rest runs to form. The music swells, the hook sweeps and another victim lies in a pool of blood in the pounding rain. There’s plenty of running from the looming maniac, as well as a twist involving the demise of the villain. But don’t despair, the ending leaves promise for yet another chapter.
“I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” satisfies the sequel rule of being much like the original. Still, there’s the hint of something richer in Trey Callaway’s script. The notion of a not-so-idyllic Eden with a testy staff provides some fleeting wit.
But director Danny Cannon tosses off the barbs and social commentary in favor of visceral thrills, a prurient perspective and elaborate set pieces. He’s a proficient technician who has studied the genre and liberally steals the best from horror favorites — in particular, “The Shining’s” Outlook Hotel ambience. The music by John Frizzell recalls “The Omen” and “Exorcist” pics and the oeuvre of Bernard Herrmann.
Once again the producers have assembled a charismatic young cast, augmented by vets Combs and Bill Cobbs as a hotel staffer with a flair for voodoo defense. Hewitt is fast becoming her generation’s Jamie Lee Curtis. Rest of the cast struggles to survive the dialogue and not-too-bright behavior to live for another installment.