Review: I Know What You Did Last Summer

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Directed by: Jim Gillespie

Written by: Kevin Williamson

Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze Jr.

Rating: [2.5/5]

Life as a teenager allows for opportunities to make big mistakes, but depending on the circumstances, you get to learn with the excuse of youthful lack of intelligence. However, the unforgivable violations do deserve the proper level of accountability, which ultimately frightens the teenagers in the much celebrated I Know What You Did Last Summer. A film that has gained a large reputation but does not have the substance to back it up. 

Following a night of romance at the beach on the 4th of July, a quartet of high school seniors, Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Barry (Ryan Phillippe), and Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.) hit someone on the road when driving. Instead of calling emergency services, they push the body in the water and vow to forget the event until they receive a note nearly a year later indicating someone knows about the incident and could expose them. 

The initial feeling covered in this feature, where you think you’ve gotten away with something but then learn you may have been caught truly stands as one of the most stomach-churning experiences someone can have. It would be one thing for this to simply be about snagging a candy bar at the grocery store, but with these characters, it comes from manslaughter, which borders on murder. The reaction of these characters thus makes sense as they return back for another summer in this town dominated by the fishing industry. Trying to figure out who sent the note becomes the biggest point of contention, but things slip into the slasher genre when an individual with a fishhook looks to take them out for what occurred. 

As with any slasher film, there will be characters the audience will scream at for their stupid actions and I Know What You Did Last Summer certainly does not buck the trend. One of the more memorable ones comes from Helen as she walks towards a marching band from an alleyway. A moment that almost breaks the heart to watch because the end result becomes quite clear and how close safety lies just makes you want to scream. This comes part and parcel with what can be expected with the genre, but it does not signify it makes for a particularly strong film. 

When viewing this film because of its impact and how it has remained relevant since its release, perhaps more was expected. Now, I don’t expect every horror movie to scare me, but at the very least do something interesting within the narrative. For example, a feature as iconic as Halloween does not necessarily frighten me but the ideas and themes it works with have proven why it’s a horror masterpiece. This feature does not bring any real scares, nor does it do anything particularly captivating with its story on anything above the surface. It begs the question of what exactly this film brings to the table as something to hold onto, and it left nothing but a big shrug. Perhaps the most defining feature of I Know What You Did Last Summer comes from assembling the most 90s teen cast imaginable. 

Starring in their own slew of movies throughout the decade, uniting the talents of Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. in one 90s slasher film probably felt like the first iteration of the Avengers. They each bring their defining assets to the feature but the one who brought the most juice undoubtedly proved to be Ryan Phillipe. Now, he has never truly wowed as an actor, at least in my estimations, but the man definitely knows how to portray an asshole on screen. Almost to an unsettling degree, he captures the arrogant and rude tendencies of Barry and how we, as the audience may be hoping he becomes the one of the quartet to get hooked by this killer. Not a good acting display simply down to the lackluster delivery but the man definitely knows how to bring flashbacks to the types of individuals no one liked to be around alone back in high school. 

While it has endured by lovers of the slasher genre, I Know What You Did Last Summer does not deliver thrills, fails to expand upon anything deeper, but it does provide some unintentionally funny moments from the stupidity on display. It must be part of the slasher genre, which always proves to be hit or miss for me. Perhaps more was expected from the reputation it has garnered but this one simply just did not do it for me.

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