Springing from the urban legend regarding a young couple's encounter with a hook wielding mass murderer, I Know What You Did Last Summer tells the tale of four recent high school graduates. There's beauty queen Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), aspiring law student Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt), the cocky alcholic jock Barry Cox (Ryan Phillippe), and the seemingly level headed fisherman's son Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze Jr.).
After a long night of partying on the 4th of July, the drunken foursome return to town along a particularly twisty piece of seaside road. Distracted by Barry's drunken antics, Ray hits and apparently kills a pedestrian. In an inexplicable move that the film tries and fails to explain, the group decides to dump the potentially alive man into the ocean, and never talk of it again.
A year goes by, and each of the foursome have become abject failures. Of course, the film presumes that, if not for the accident, they would have all been tremendously successful. Anyhow, fate reunites them back in their hometown, and as Independence Day draws near, the group receives notes and other signs that suggest someone knows of their evil deed and wants revenge.
And it is at this point that a mildly bad film becomes completely ludicrous. The killer appears (looking like the Gorton's Fisherman, no less), and in a move completely unrelated to his quest for revenge, begins slaughtering innocents who weren't even involved in the hit-and-run. The film ends up breaking all laws of logic or plausibility to come to a lifeless conclusion
I Know What You Did Last Summer bears more resemblance to the awful 80s slasher flicks than the film it tries so desperately to be (Scream). In fact, its only Scream-ish influences seem to be a trendy young cast and the lack of nudity. Even though its screenplay is by the same author, Kevin Williamson, very little effort or even originality appears onscreen. First-time director Jim Gillespie does a paint-by-the-numbers job here and adds little to the film.
The four leads are uniformly unappealing. In fact, the only one of the four who elicits some form of sympathy is Sarah Michelle Gellar, but that is probably due to the talents of the actress rather than the character, who is vain and brainless.
If there are more teen slasher films to follow in the wake of Scream, one can only hope that they'll at least try to stretch the conventions of the genre. Unfortunately, I Know What You Did Last Summer is not a sign of good things to come.
[R - strong horror violence and language] (Mandalay)
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