I Know What You Did Last Summer
Dir. Jim Gillespie (1997)
Four high school seniors celebrate after graduation and kill a man with their car, dumping his body to avoid prosecution. Somebody saw.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The latter half of the 90’s were as chock-full of slasher films as the entire 1980’s, with more standalones and franchises than the average movie-goer could even keep up with. There are many great films from that time-period, ushered in by Scream in 1996, and the craze didn’t end until the middle of the next decade. There are just as many bad films, to be sure, but some great and classic teen horror films came out of that period, including 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer. Most famous for introducing horror fans to Jennifer Love Hewitt’s amazing breasts and filled with teen idols of the time, it also is a satisfyingly fun addition to the slasher genre and is easily one of the most memorable of the period.
Totally appropriate fishing attire.
After graduation, and to celebrate Sarah Michelle Gellar’s beauty pageant win, four teens have a beach party involving alcohol and premarital sex, as teens are wont to do. On the way home, they accidentally run over a man who is walking along the dark, seaside road, and they quickly formulate a plot to dump his body into the ocean to avoid detection and to prevent the derailment of their bright futures. Naturally, their futures don’t turn out that well anyway, because they’re all guilt-ridden over the bad behavior, but they end up reaping the physical punishment for their sins when they start receiving notes that tell them that someone is aware of their misdeeds. They’re hunted down one by one, with each member becoming a suspect until the final killer is revealed.
The movie is a classic for sure, and while it lacks a lot of the technical prowess and sense of humor that made Scream the cultural touchstone that it became, it is a great addition to the horror canon and is one of the better films centering around the July 4th holiday (which incidentally makes it perfect for our ScareMerica event!) The “fearsome foursome” at the center of the film, with Freddie Prinze Jr. and Ryan Phillipe rounding out the group with Gellar and Hewitt, were at the heights of their teen fame and were an instant draw for kids who were looking to scratch their horror itch without being too scared. It’s silly, with some bizarre plot choices regarding the killer and his family (Anne Heche as the weird chicken lady in the most wtf role of the film), but it’s perfect for those who want to watch a slasher without ever feeling squeamish.
Besides, the late 90’s were the time for horror that didn’t push any boundaries, sort of a safety net for a subgenre that had all but fallen by the wayside at the close of the 80’s. The early 90’s were a transitional period for slashers, as most of what audiences were able to watch were rehashed sequels, including some of the worst entries in each of the legendary slasher franchises. The subsequent box office failures of these films almost destroyed the genre until Scream rescued the slasher film, and I Know What You Did Last Summer was one of the first to take advantage of the audience’s new interest in the genre. It doesn’t break new ground, but it is wildly entertaining, especially as a nostalgic treat. Gellar’s eventual death in an alleyway within sight of a well-attended parade is surprisingly chilling, and, the jumbled motivations of the killer aside, is a pretty coherent film that moves along quickly and entertains throughout. The sequel isn’t half bad either, I might have to get to it eventually… Plus, it’s easy to forget that The Big Bang Theory’s own Johnny Galecki plays a rough-and-tumble blue-collar tough guy, and he does it surprisingly well.
Don’t you test me, motherfucker! – The Morrigan’s favorite line from any horror movie ever
Who this movie is for: Slasher fans of all ages, 90’s TV buffs looking for some nostalgic actors, Deadliest Catch fashion lovers
Bottom line: Effective, tightly-paced, and hugely entertaining, IKWYDLS is a great source of 90’s nostalgia and relatively bloodless fun. Filled with a great cast of characters and a terrifying, urban legend-inspired killer, it’s exactly the kind of slasher that I love and hits the spot for those looking to watch a 90’s slasher that isn’t Scream. Plus, again, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s boobs. That should really be all you need to know, and this film is a great watch for those looking for July 4th goodness.