We gave it a B-
I Know What You Did Last Summer
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Sarah Michelle Gellar
He wears a dirty green fisherman’s cap and rain slicker. He stands ramrod straight, in the square-shouldered psycho tradition of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and — where they descended from, after all — Norman Bates. His weapon of choice? A gleaming silver fishhook. It’s a nasty tool of terror, to be sure, but also an obvious one, good for ripping people’s throats open or toting a pretty blond around like a giant dead carp. Say this for I Know What You Did Last Summer (Columbia): If nothing else, it knows how to assault you as crudely — and efficiently — as its vengeful slasher.
By the end of the ’80s, teen-horror films, with their casts that looked as if they’d been recruited at a shopping- mall talent show, had descended to a level of ragtag ineptitude depressing to behold. (Believe me: I cut my critic’s teeth reviewing every last one of them.) I Know What You Did Last Summer is not of that lowly ilk; it attains a level of solidly mediocre trash competence. In a picturesque fishing village in North Carolina, four recent high school graduates take a rowdy Independence Night joyride back from the beach when they accidentally hit someone on the road. Panicked, they dump the body into the ocean, only to realize, at the last minute, that he’s still alive.
The following summer, they return to their hometown, still haunted by what they’ve done. Of course, fear and guilt aren’t the only things stalking them. So is a deranged killer, who keeps leaving ominous notes (”I know what you did last summer!”). Before long, he begins to subject them to his lethal hook. Is the killer the man they hit, now ”returned” from the dead? Or is it the woman they think is his wrong-side-of-the-tracks sister (played by a spooky Anne Heche)? Or is it one of the kids themselves?
I Know What You Did Last Summer was written by Kevin Williamson, who penned the allusively witty, genre-bending script for Scream. A lot of the young viewers who flocked to that film may well turn out for this one, eager for another dose of jump-out-of-your-seat thrills. That said, if you loved Scream not just because it revived the clichés of teen slasher movies but because it stood those clichés on their head, turning schlock trivia into suspense (and vice versa), becoming a pop-culture hall of mirrors … well, if you’re expecting another movie like that, look elsewhere. I Know What You Did Last Summer is nothing but a slick version of the kind of gruesomely formulaic who-will-be-the-next-to-die hack-’em-up that Scream took off from and, ultimately, transcended. The killer himself is generically scary (though his pranks with corpses are cleverly staged), and the story, by the end, has more holes than the bodies do. There’s no griping about the cast, though: Those slasher potboilers of the late ’80s would have been lucky to feature an actress as fetching and savvy as Party of Five‘s Jennifer Love Hewitt. She knows how to scream with soul. B-