I Know What You Did Last Summer

I Know What You Did Last Summer ★★

I love Scream. Scream is basically the reason I became a horror fan. My friends and I rented it for a sleepover when we were about 15 - despite the fact that our parents had expressly forbidden us to watch it - and we became obsessed. We watched that movie over and over and over again until we could pretty much quote the entire script from memory.

But despite my weird capacity for watching the same thing several hundred times over, even I eventually had to branch out into other movies. I Know What You Did Last Summer was one of the Scream-alikes that came out in the mid-90s; it was based on a script Kevin Williamson had tried and failed to sell before Scream, and it was made to roughly the same recipe, full of self-aware humour and dead teenagers. I never loved I Know What You Did Last Summer like I loved Scream, though, so when another Den of Geek writer wrote a nostalgic article about it, I thought maybe I should give it another chance. I thought maybe I'd misjudged it all these years. And it was on Netflix...

... Sadly, this story doesn't have a very happy ending. I Know What You Did Last Summer isn't very good. There are a couple of nice character beats, but you'll miss them if you're not really really paying attention because they're easily lost in the rubbish of the rest of the script.

The plot is, basically, that a bunch of teenagers out celebrating Independence Day accidentally run a man over. Not wanting to risk jeopardising their futures, they dump him in the sea and promise to forget about it. Fast forward a year, and they start receiving threatening letters from someone who, dun dun dun, knows what they did last summer. Is it the dead man, back for revenge? Is it his lonely sister, avenging his death? Or is it one of their own friends, betraying their promise?

The answer is dopey. Really dopey. But by the time the mystery is explained, it's hard to care, because nothing the killer does in this movie really makes any sense. And there are some weird moments where it seems like maybe the director didn't pay as much attention to the script as he should have, because what we see and what the characters say don't match up. Are Helen, Barry and Julie rich, or not? What does Max have to do with anything? A last minute fake-out based on a false name is the worst offender on the logic front, because it's just so incredibly stupid.

There are glimmers of something going on beneath the surface of the film, but they don't really add up to much. There's something interesting in the way the central four characters' lives and relationships have fallen apart after the accident, as guilt overwhelms each of them and forces them to confront the reality behind their dreams, but given the way the film's easy resolution lets them off the hook, none of it really matters in the end. Julie's whole character arc is represented by the state of her hair and how recently it's been washed, and that just about sums up how developed any of the characters in this film are. (Barry's sole character trait, it seems, is that he shouts a lot.)

There's a part of my brain that wanted to rewatch I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, before I watched this. All I can really remember about it is that a major plot twist relies on the characters and audience not knowing the answer to a trivia question, and I kind of can't believe anyone would really write that film, but after sitting through the first movie in the franchise, I can't be bothered to track down and sit through a sequel that's even worse. Pah. I should've just watched Scream for the 3948398493th time.

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