×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

I Know What You Did Last Summer

Combining familiar elements from horror staples and a few novel twists, "I Know What You Did Last Summer" is a polished genre piece with superior fright elements that should perform at better than normal theatrical levels for this type of picture.

With:
Julie James - Jennifer Love Hewitt
Helen Shivers - Sarah Michelle Gellar
Barry Cox - Ryan Phillippe
Ray Bronson - Freddie Prinze Jr.
Benjamin Willis - Muse Wats
Melissa Egan - Anne Heche
Elsa Shivers - Bridgette Wilson
Max - Johnny Galecki

Combining familiar elements from horror staples and a few novel twists, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” is a polished genre piece with superior fright elements that should perform at better than normal theatrical levels for this type of picture. Just clever enough to rise above the usual fodder, its appealing cast and technical confidence go a long way toward paving over narrative and character lapses. Upbeat box office returns and brisk action in ancillaries loom.

The setting is a North Carolina fishing community where nothing much appears to happen. During the annual Fourth of July celebrations, Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is crowned in a local beauty pageant and goes off to party with her boyfriend, Barry (Ryan Phillippe), and their friends Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.). Driving home from the revelry, Ray is distracted by Barry’s drunken shenanigans and hits something in the road. Stopping to examine the scene of the accident, they discover a bloody, inanimate object.

In the panic of the moment, hotter heads prevail and the teens decide to dispose of the evidence rather than face the prospect of dashing their promising futures at college and acting school. But just as they’re about to drop the body into the water, it comes to life, and a brief struggle forever cements their culpability in a murderous act.

A year later, Julie returns to the community after a disastrous first round at an Ivy League college. Waiting at home is a concerned mother and a note bearing the ominous title words. The despondent young woman seeks out her cronies, discovering equally shattered lives. Helen bombed out in New York and is working the cosmetics counter at her family’s department store. Ray is eking out a fisherman’s life, and Barry still is in a drunken stupor. So much for youthful dreams.

The script lays out the dire consequences of having made the wrong decision. But this is a fleeting notion in the material, quickly segueing into more obvious territory with the appearance of a malevolent presence, whose face is obscured by his fisherman’s garb. He disposes of Max — a classmate who saw the foursome at the side of the road that fateful night and who the young people suspect wrote the note — and goes on to terrorize Barry.

The logic behind murdering a nonparticipant and allowing one of the quartet to live is mystifying, if necessary to the thriller’s progression as well as to its visceral thrills. A taste of the carnage to come, it’s a warning sign that the serious underpinnings of the piece will be sacrificed for genre demands. Remainder of the film plays out as a cat-and-mouse game, with the young women taking the lead in unmasking a killer before he can diminish their ranks.

As with his script for “Scream,” writer Kevin Williamson demonstrates adroitness at creating vivid young protagonists. Both a horror buff and a chronicler of contemporary mores, he struggles to mesh his two pursuits with fitful success, bowing to the demands of the genre at the expense of texture and resonance. Ultimately, that limits the pic’s appeal, and in the hands of tyro feature director Jim Gillespie much of the wit and playfulness of the exercise is further sacrificed. Gillespie relies on a cool, stylish technical facility to compensate for his apparent lack of connection to the characters.

The leads elevate their prototypes considerably, leaping over seemingly impossible dialogue to convey vulnerability and burdensome guilt. Hewitt and Prinze are particularly good, and Anne Heche is a standout in a supporting role as the hauntingly eviscerated sister of the hit-and-run victim.

There’s no question that “I Know What You Did Last Summer” is on target for its primary audience. Still, it pulls too many punches and takes too many dramatic shortcuts to maintain the meatier elements introduced at the outset. Its slasher sensibility lays waste to the more chilling psychological echoes that are the hallmarks of the most enduring horror movies.

I Know What You Did Last Summer

Production: A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures film of a Mandalay Entertainment presentation of a Neil H. Moritz production. Produced by Moritz, Erik Feig, Stokely Chaffin. Executive producer, William S. Beasley. Directed by Jim Gillespie. Screenplay, Kevin Williamson, based on the novel by Lois Duncan.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), Denis Crossan; editor, Steve Mirkovich; music, John Debney; production design, Gary Wissner; art direction, John J. Rutchland III; costume design, Catherine Adair; sound (Dolby, SDDS), Carl Rudisill; stunt coordinator, Freddie Hice; assistant director, Louis d'Esposito; casting, Mary Vernieu. Reviewed at the Hollywood Galaxy, L.A., Oct. 8, 1997. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 101 min.

With: Julie James - Jennifer Love Hewitt
Helen Shivers - Sarah Michelle Gellar
Barry Cox - Ryan Phillippe
Ray Bronson - Freddie Prinze Jr.
Benjamin Willis - Muse Wats
Melissa Egan - Anne Heche
Elsa Shivers - Bridgette Wilson
Max - Johnny Galecki

More Film

  • Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Nominations 2019

    'Biggest Little Farm' Nabs Seven Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Nominations

    “The Biggest Little Farm” leads nominees for the fourth annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, with seven bids, followed by “Apollo 11” and “They Shall Not Grow Old.” “One Child Nation” received five nominations. The winners will be presented their awards at a gala, hosted by Property Brothers’ Jonathan Scott, on Nov. 10 at BRIC in [...]

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Abominable Animated Movie

    Vietnam Pulls DreamWorks' 'Abominable' Over Contested Territorial Claims

    Vietnam has banned DreamWorks Animation’s new co-produced feature “Abominable” from its cinemas due to a scene involving a map that depicts China’s contested territorial claims in the South China Sea. The move comes as U.S. entertainment firms such as the NBA, Disney and gaming firm Activision Blizzard are under intense fire from U.S. fans, activists [...]

  • The Captain

    China Box Office: 'The Captain' Flies to $340 Million After Two Weeks on Release

    Patriotic thriller “The Captain” held on to the top spot at the Chinese box office for the second weekend, again leading from propaganda omnibus “My People, My Country.” “The Captain,” also known as “The Chinese Pilot” earned $34.9 million according to consultancy Artisan Gateway, for a two-week cumulative of $343 million. The cumulative for “People,” [...]

  • CGV movie theatre Seoul South KoreaCGV

    Korean Law to Limit Film Releasing Monopolies

    The Korean government is to make it illegal to show a single film on more than 50% of screens nationwide. The move is intended to prevent “screen monopolies by blockbuster films” and to “address unfair competition practices in the film industry.” The Ministry of Culture announced on Monday that it will revise the existing Promotion [...]

  • Jason Flemyng, Casting Director Lucinda Syson

    Jason Flemyng, Lucinda Syson Launch Film and TV Indie The Kernel Factory (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jason Flemyng, fellow actor Ben Starr, casting director Lucinda Syson, and finance expert Cristiano D’Urso are opening The Kernel Factory, a new U.K.-based film and TV indie. Flemyng has a long list of movie credits including “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” and Guy Ritchie’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking [...]

  • Hache

    ‘Hache’ Creator, Director Discuss Netflix’s Next Spanish Original, Dropping Nov. 1

    MADRID — On Nov 1 Netflix will drop its fifth Spanish original series, 1960’s-set drug smuggling drama “Hache,” produced by Madrid’s Weekend Studio for the platform. Created by Verónica Fernández and directed by Jorge Torregrossa (“La vida inesperada,” “Cocaine Coast,” “Velvet Collection”), “Hache” tells the story of Helena (Adriana Ugarte), a prostitute who ends up [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content