Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Jim Gillespie
Stars: Jennifer Love Hewitt , Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillipe, Freddie Prinze jr, Johnny Galecki, Bridgette Wilson, Anne Heche , Muse Watson
Running Time:100 minutes.
Kevin Williamson ‘s clever, original script for Scream demonstrated a keen eye for the clichés of the slasher genre, and the film was characterised by a sly wit and ironic touches that deftly punctured many of them with knowing style and ease. However, his new script for the teen slasher horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer lacks that playful style and inventiveness, and disappointingly falls back on the very same clichés that it playfully mocked. Adapted from Lois Duncan’s novel, I Know What You Did Last Summer is a predictable and formulaic film that slavishly adheres to the well-worn conventions of the slasher genre, and its plot devices will be instantly familiar to anyone who has seen the Halloween and Nightmare On Elm Street series.
The film is set in Southport, a small fishing village in North Carolina. On a July 4 long weekend, four drunken teenagers are involved in a hit and run accident on a lonely coast road. The quartet consists of Julie (Party of Five‘s Jennifer Love Hewitt); arrogant, handsome and rich sports star Barry (Ryan Phillipe); local beauty queen Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar, from tv’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer), and Ray (Freddie Prinze jr), the boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Julie suggests they go to the police, but Barry convinces them to bury the dead body and forget about the incident. The four then try to get on with their lives, but the guilty secret soon affects them and takes its toll. Only Julie manages to escape the town and the guilty secret by going to university.
Twelve months later though, Julie reluctantly returns home for the long weekend and promptly receives an anonymous note that simply says “I know what you did last summer.” Believing that someone is playing a sick joke, she tries to track down the identity of their mysterious victim and shed some light on the anonymous author of the note. Meanwhile, a mysterious and vengeful hook- wielding fisherman, dressed eerily in a black raincoat, begins slashing his way through the four teenagers and anyone else who gets in the way. The menacing killer moves with a deliberate ease, while his hapless victims inevitably panic, run and try and hide, usually in confined spaces offering little hope of escape.
The four targets are a uniformly unlikeable, selfish and whining bunch, and one actually finds oneself cheering on the killer, hoping that he will quickly finish his bloody work so that we can all go home. The ludicrous plot is full of holes – how does the killer remove his victims from crowded places without being seen by the townsfolk? – and liberally punctuated with red herrings. The identity of the killer just adds to the general feeling of dissatisfaction with the whole premise.
I Know What You Did Last Summer is a disappointing horror film aimed primarily at adolescent audiences, who will enjoy the attractive but largely unknown cast. They all deliver wooden and one dimensional performances that are more suited to the television melodramas and sitcoms in which they all started their fledgling careers. Only Anne Heche (Volcano, etc), who contributes a brief appearance as the slightly odd sister of a dead fisherman, gives some semblance of a performance.
Making his American feature film debut here, Scottish director Jim Gillespie maintains a pedestrian pace throughout, and his rather lacklustre and uninspired visual style fails to add anything to the material. However, Gillespie does manage to include a few genuine shocks that will jolt audiences out of their seats. And, of course, the deliberately ambiguous ending leaves the way open for the almost obligatory but totally unnecessary sequel.