Are You With Us? I Know What You Did Last Summer
By Ryan Mazie
October 22, 2012

The sequel is called what? That makes no sense.

I love Halloween. Scary movies, haunted houses, orange (my favorite color) everywhere, and pumpkin-flavored (my favorite flavoring) anything, I truly don’t understand anyone who doesn’t like Halloween. So in honor of the top box office horror flick Paranormal Activity 4 (RIP Saw) and this weekend’s Silent Hill sequel, I am writing about a hit horror film I have yet to see – I Know What You Did Last Summer.

I do not know why I have never seen I Know What You Did Last Summer. Maybe I didn’t find it all too worthwhile. Perhaps it is that I have seen the film spoofed so many times before, I already knew the plot and couldn’t help but laugh at it. Possibly it is the low 5.5 IMDb rating that made my warning siren go off. Whatever the reason, I finally watched the 1997 teen slasher flick - and was quite disappointed.

I was surprised how big of a lasting name legacy the film has for being so average. There is no inspirational female heroine for audiences to reference in the future and the villain is not particularly memorable. In fact, he is nearly non-existent. But for whatever ghoulish reason, I Know What You Did Last Summer lives on with us.

Starring two of the hottest young TV actresses at the time, Party of Five’s Jennifer Love Hewitt as the brainy heroine and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Sarah Michelle Gellar as the bimbo in their leading film debuts, I Know What You Did Last Summer had the marketing hype. Hewitt is the saintly good girl in the car of a group of soon-to-be college students that includes Freddie Prinze Jr. and Ryan Phillippe as the boyfriends. Driving drunk after a fourth of July bonfire, the car accidentally hits a shadowy stranger walking on the road (the hook-handed fisherman of urban legend?). Motivated by a fear of destroying their collegiate future, they dump the body into the ocean and swear to an oath of secrecy.

Cut to a year later where the foursome all receive letters scrawled in blood reading, “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.” *Cue the ominous music*.

Obviously not bright enough to figure out who is sending the letters (I mean, they assumed tossing the body into the ocean was a smart move, so I can’t blame them), I Know What You Did Last Summer is 90 minutes of unmemorable murders, screaming, lazy dialogue, and a mystery that the audience can never figure out, because the clues are unfairly withheld in an attempt to shock that only results in annoyance.

Surprisingly, the best thing about the fright flick is its cast. Serviceable at best, it is fun to see the four leads getting their film start, with three out of the four (sorry Freddie) moving on to much better things.

Hewitt proves herself as a scream queen with a great presence even in the cheesiest of scenes (ie. the screaming at the sky breakdown moment). While not a memorable character, Hewitt is at least convincing in having the strength to overcome the shadowy villain, making the final fight sequence somewhat thrilling. That is assuming you have not turned off the movie by this point.

Just a typical “let’s make a quick buck”-teen horror with a mostly nameless (at the time) cast and crew, the only eyebrow-raising name in the credits belongs to screenwriter Kevin Williamson (Scream). It was strange to see him have his name attached to this film, being the type of cliché horror that Scream skewered. However, it turns out that Williamson wrote this script long before creating the “Ghost Face” franchise, with Columbia Pictures immediately snatching up the previously unsold script to cash off of his newfound fame.

Opening at the top of the box office on October 17th to $15.8 million, thanks to weak competition and rather extraordinary holds, I Know What You Did Last Summer stayed number one for three weeks, throughout the rest of October. Even after Halloween, the film stayed within the top 10, still in eighth place even during the first week of December. Thanks to its surprisingly lengthy run, Summer had a hot total of $72.6 million ($126.8 million adjusted to today's dollars). Overseas venues contributed an extra $53 million to the haul.

With no officially reported budget, the rumored mid-to-high teens cost seems likely and guaranteed the film a profit. The fairly popular soundtrack also helped pump up Columbia’s profit on the screamer.

A sequel (I STILL Know What You Did Last Summer) was quickly commissioned and released a year later (much like we have today with perennial horror sequels), but was strangely given a date in mid-November. Opening slightly bigger than the original, it quickly plummeted, racking in only $40 million (against a much bigger $65 million budget).

Lacking a memorable (or even original) villain, characters, deaths, and chase scenes, I Know What You Did Last Summer is one of the most forgettable lasting horror films from the ‘90s there is. Possibly this is due to the cast, who still have strong, nostalgic fan bases. Any other reason is just as unexplainable as ghosts.

Slightly fun, slightly campy, never scary, and consistently annoying, I Know What You Did Last Summer is just generic fun-size Halloween candy, only satisfying to those with the cheapest sweet tooth’s.

Verdict: With Us
3 out of 10