30 Day Horror Review – SLASHER FILM – I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Four teens are in great danger one year after their car hits a stranger whose body they dump in the sea. (IMDB synopsis)

I’m sort of familiar with this film, thanks to Treehouse of Horror… well, I know the basic premise at least. It’s a little odd that I don’t know who the slasher character is already, since other franchises – Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th – had clearly identifiable villains. I’m quite intrigued to find out what goes on in this film. I have a feeling there’s a twist ending involved, though. Just a feeling.

Review:

Wow, this film has a lot of big name actors in it: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillipe, Johnny Galecki (oooh, I hope HE’S the killer), Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr… Wait, weren’t those two in the live action Scooby Doo together? Hey, wouldn’t THAT be great? Imagine it – the Mystery Machine knocks down and kills a guy one night, and then after they dispose of him the gang get called in to solve the mystery, and then they get the idea that a fisherman ghost is stalking them… Same plot, basically, but more Scooby snacks.
Anyway! The film. IKWYDLS. A girl, Helen, has just won a 4th of July beauty contest in her local fishing town, and her friends Julie, Barry and Ray cheer her on. Galecki’s character Max is there too, but only long enough to be both friendzoned and roughhoused (booooooooo!), as the group are off to the beach to drink, party and swaps details of an urban legend about a serial killer with a large hook for a weapon. Yay, lazy foreshadowing!
Later on, they’re driving back and run over some bloke by mistake. To their credit, they do check for a pulse before presuming him dead, and they then reason that the best thing – for them – is to dump the body in the sea. The plan doesn’t go smoothly as they are interrupted but not rumbled by Max, and also the bloke fights for his life as they kick him into the water. But they finish the job, agreeing to ‘take this to the grave’, and could you please shout that a little louder, Mr. Bossyboots?
A year later, a letter arrives for a now pale and haggard Julie, reading ‘I know what you did last summer’. She reconnects with the other three, showing them the letter. Max is quickly ruled out as a suspect when a figure in fishing gear with a hook brutally murders him. After that, things get pretty darn serious. Yup.
Before I get into the review proper, I’ll go ahead and make something clear about this genre. Because of the nature of slasher films, they get more of a pass on the jumpscare thing. However, it shouldn’t be JUST jumpscares – to be effective, the film needs to make the viewer share in the victim’s dread. It has to make them wince whenever someone turns a corner in their darkened house, and flinch at every noise. IKWYDLS does that adequately for the most part, but it also does a few things that make no sense. I can understand the killer toying with the teens, menacing them with letters, but putting Max’s body and a load of crabs in Julie’s boot to scare her, and then removing them to make her look delusional in front of friends? Reeeeediculous! Not even Jigsaw would think of going to such lengths!
A big component of the plot is that nobody knows who the killer is, and the characters spend some time eliminating each other as suspects and doing the necessary research. But eventually, I got tired of IKWYDLS setting up obvious red herring after obvious red herring. First they do it with Max, who drove past shortly after the driving accident. Then with Barry, who’s clearly willing to take violent action towards anyone who threatens him. Then Ray, because he’s a fisherman, in this town full of fishermen. Then it’s the skittish relative of the deceased. Then a guy called Billy Blue who nobody’s ever heard of. Then there’s Helen’s cartoonishly bitchy sister Elsa. Elsa in particular really annoys me because she is unrealistically unpleasant to her sister for no reason at all, and it’s obvious she’s not the killer, so what was the point, movie? AND there’s a useless cop who thankfully gets himself killed quickly so I don’t have to devote a whole paragraph to complaining about him… again.
The twist isn’t too bad, to be honest. Spoiler alert – it turns out the man found to be the victim of a ‘drowning accident’, David Egan, was in fact killed by a man called Ben Willis, who the teens killed shortly afterwards. Or so they think. Yes, the mysterious fisherman with the hook is Ben Willis, who is understandably annoyed about being so ungraciously disposed off after the car accident. So it’s only natural that he waits for a year after said accident to pick off the teens one by one. And Max, for some reason. And a few other people. That’s fair enough, right?

Final Verdict:

It’s not brilliant, but it’s perfectly satisfactory if you don’t think about it too much – I’ve seen worse at this point. A slasher film has to be doing something very right or very wrong if so many people choose to parody it, and I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. The concept is fairly interesting, giving the characters a genuine reason not to involve the police while they’re working out who the killer is. The performances of the main actors isn’t amazing, but it convinces me. Especially Jennifer Love Hewitt – boy, does that girl know how to scream.

Rating:

6 jam sandwiches.

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