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I Know What You Did Last Summer: The Collection DVD Review

I Know What You Did Last Summer: The Collection

August 10, 2006

Director: Jim Gillespie, Danny Cannon, Sylvain White,
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze Jr., Brandy, Mekhi Phifer, Jeffrey Combs, Jennifer Esposito, Brooke Nevin, David Patetkau, Don Shanks,

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DVD Review

At first glance, it seems incredible that a film as awful as I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) did well enough to spawn two sequels. How could a film that was essentially Beverly Hills 90210 meets Scooby Doo with blood have been so successful? It’s really quite simple, actually. Aside from riding on the success of Scream (1996), I Know What You Did had all the necessary ingredients for widespread appeal: it starred two popular actresses from successful television shows (Part of Five’s Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and featured a hip soundtrack with the latest MTV darlings. But this still doesn’t excuse the fact that I Know What You Did is about as scary as the Charlie Brown Halloween Special.

Lifting its plot generously from such genre classics as Prom Night (1980), and with a dash of Shallow Grave (1994) thrown in for good measure, I Know What You Did establishes its premise early on. Four friends are celebrating the end of the summer before each one heads off to their respective futures. While joyriding on an apparently deserted stretch of highway late one night they accidentally hit and kill someone. The group agrees to dump the body in a river and never talk to anyone about what happened. A year later, they reunite only to realize that their lives are messed up as a result of what they did last summer. And, to add insult to injury, each one of them receives mysterious notes or messages suggesting that the person they hit isn’t really dead after all.

Once I Know What You Did establishes this decidedly dodgy premise, it proceeds to plod along in typical paint-by-numbers fashion: people predictably start dying at the hands of a mysterious killer before our heroes realize the error of their ways and try to fix things. In a desperate attempt to fill seats, all the character stereotypes we’ve grown to know and loathe are trotted out: the quick-tempered, self-absorbed jock; the brainy beauty with a strong moral streak; the soft-spoken sensitive guy; and the narcissistic beauty queen. Yes, there’s something for everyone. But the actors are not entirely at fault, here – they try their best with the material at hand, but it ain’t much. This comes as somewhat of a surprise when you consider that I Know What You Did was written by Scream scribe Kevin Williamson. However, this effort lacks all the cleverness and wit of Scream as characters spout some of the most banal, cliché-ridden dialogue this side of Melrose Place.

Despite the surprise success of the first film, only Freddy Prinze Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt return (of course, they were also the few to survive) for I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998). Julie (Hewitt) is still wracked with guilt and tormented by nightmares from what happened… wait for it, last summer (cue dramatic music). It’s a year later and the relationship between her and Ray (Prinze Jr.) is strained. He’s moved on while she’s still hanging onto the past. In what has to be one of the lamest plot devices in horror film history, Julie and her best friend Carla (Brandy) win a trip to the Bahamas thanks to a conveniently timed radio station contest. It seems that the killer also needs a vacation and follows Julie and her friends down to the Bahamas killing them off one by one.

Bland director Jim Gillespie (who went on to make the direct-to-video Stallone action film D-Tox) is replaced by the equally bland journeyman director Danny Cannon (Judge Dredd) who inserts the requisite fake jolts with ones that actually involve the killer and telegraphs them a mile away, complete with heavy-handed musical cues to tip off the less savvy among us. But hey, Hewitt looks beautiful in every scene as she manages to parade around in a series of tight-fitting tops.

The always watchable John Hawkes pops up for a way-too brief cameo before he’s summarily dispatched by the killer. Jack Black also shows up in an embarrassingly awful cameo as a white guy who thinks he’s black, complete with dreadlocks and a faux Jamaican accent – definitely not his finest moment. For horror film aficionados, Jeffrey Combs is a welcome sight as the surly resort manager with attitude who easily steals every scene he’s in.

Welcome to the end of the cycle as the third in the series – I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006) – goes straight to video. Hence the creation of this box set: include the first two films with the same extras in the hopes that those who don’t have them will buy this collection to get the inferior third movie.

A fresh new crop of teens becomes fodder for the man with the hook. It all starts with a group of young friends recounting the July 4th urban legend about the fisherman preying on teens with dirty little secrets. After they pull a prank that goes horribly wrong – imitating the fisherman – a core member of their group is accidentally killed. Fearing that they’ll get in trouble and mess up any prospect of getting out of the dead end burg they live in, the four friends take an oath to cover up what they did. But you know it’s not going to be that easy. A year later, and one of them, Amber (Nevins) is still wracked with guilt. This causes the real fisherman to surface so that he can teach these pesky kids a lesson.

The characters are bland and uninteresting – even more so than the last film – as director Sylvain White (Trois 3: The Escort) adopts a shaky, hand-held camera technique to create an “edgy” look to distract us from the weak screenplay. You have to give him credit as he tries to keep things visually interesting so that we don’t notice the paint-by-numbers plot. This includes increasing the camera speed, using freeze frames and unusual point-of-view shots. It almost works. By the film’s end it is clear that the franchise has to be put to bed. It’s done.

The I Know What You Did films hardly hold a candle to its infinitely more popular and superior Scream films. The clever self-referentiality is not there and this results in a collection of films that look good but are ultimately empty examples of how not to make a decent horror film. I suppose if you’d never seen a teen slasher flick before, than these movies might actually be a good but I doubt it.

Special Features:

I Know What You Did Last Summer includes an audio commentary by director Jim Gillespie and editor Steve Mirkovich. These two tend to emphasize the technical aspects of the movie, focusing on camera techniques and so on. However, Gillespie does offer the occasional factoid, like how Sarah Michelle Gellar was actually the last of the four leads to be cast and this was done before the Buffy the Vampire Slayer T.V. show took off. Mirkovich doesn’t say much, instead prompting Gillespie with questions. The director often mentions the tight shooting schedule he faced and how he had to film these scenes very fast.

Also included is a theatrical trailer.

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer includes a “’Making of’ Featurette” that is basically an extended trailer with loads of clips from the movie with the occasional soundbite from cast and crew members talking about how much fun they had and how proud of the film they are.

There is a theatrical trailer and a music video for “How Do I Deal” by Jennifer Love Hewitt back in the days when she tried to launch a pop music career.

I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer features a commentary by director Sylvain White. He talks about the “flash” technique he employed with his camera throughout the movie to symbolize “angst and panic.” He also talks about why he picked the locations that he did and some of the choices he made in terms of camerawork. White does touch upon some of the film’s themes and tells the usual filming anecdotes in this passable track.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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