Slasher movies had their heyday in the eighties. Back then, gore was in, and movies about mindless killers were all the rage. It was cool the first few times (just for the shock of seeing something you had never seen in a movie before), but it got old quickly. If you were the age I was during this time frame (late grammar school and junior high years) it might have taken you longer to realize it, but the formula for these movies was always the same, and year after year the movies got lamer and lamer. Finally, the whole genre seemed to peter out, and except for the usual low budget crap-o-ramas (where, ironically, the whole genre got its start), slasher movies slowly disappeared (only to be replaced by the nineties' deluge of serial killer movies, which managed at least to shift the focus from gore to psychology -- sometimes.)
Then along came Scream. Scream was part slasher movie, part slasher movie parody, but all fun. It was interesting, humorous in the right places, tense in all the other places, and it kept you guessing about the identity of the killer. This was a good slasher movie. Unfortunately, it gave the genre a whole new lease on life, ushering in a new wave of slasher movies. Also unfortunately, most of them aren't nearly as good as Scream.
I Know What You Did Last Summer is a perfect example. One of the biggest problems that slasher movies have always had is that they stick to the same formula: a bunch of teens are in some sort of secluded place, and a mad killer picks them off one by one. Couples pair off and get killed, and in the end only the virginal girl and her boyfriend are left.
Scream owed much of it's success to owning up to this forumla, playing with as well as within it -- it was a self-aware movie. I Know What You Did Last Summer doesn't do any of this, nor does it try particularly hard to go in the other direction and shy away from the formula. Instead, it merrily plows its way through it, not even seeming to notice that it is a formula. The one change they make is the setting -- instead of the usual secluded area, I Know What You Did Last Summer takes place smack in the middle of an affluent fishing village. This, however, only makes matters worse, as I will show later.
Unlike most of the other movies on this page, you can't tell right from the first frame that this movie is going to stink. It takes about fifteen minutes for that realization to sink in. It creeps up on you gradually at first but then slaps you hard in the face about twenty minutes in.
It's about the twenty minute mark when Julie (Hewitt) and her pals run over a man on a back country road. One of the car's occupants is standing up in the car, his upper body to the waist sticking out of the sunroof. The car hits the man, and he flies up and over the roof, hitting the guy sticking out of the sunroof and bending him over backwards. But is he hurt? Is his back broken from bending the wrong way, or his skull fractured from smacking the roof of the car, or even his ribs cracked from the impact of the other man? Nope, he's just a little dazed is all. He's got some blood on his head, but it's not even his own -- it's the other guy's. This scene was so ludicrous that I laughed out loud for the first (but not the last) time during the movie. There wasn't even any good, plot-driven reason for the guy to be sticking out of the sunroof. They could have accomplished everything this accomplished (spilling alchohol in the car, distracting the driver) in some other way that didn't involve the ridiculous scene that developed from it.
The four friends pile out of the car and find the body and agonize over what to do. Most of this scene actually works, but I still find it hard to believe that these four people would end up dumping the body instead of confessing. All the reasons are there as to why they "can't" confess (there was alchohol all over the car, and the car's owner was drunk -- even though he wasn't driving, they feared nobody would believe that he was just a passenger.) And yet I just wasn't convinced.
While they're deciding what to do, a school mate of the four stooges drives by. They manage to get the body off the road, but Max still notices the car parked backwards in the middle of the road and the hood banged up. Amazingly, he doesn't even ask what happened beyond, "You got car trouble?" The four stooges make up a lame story, and Max apparently buys it completely, even though it mentions nothing about the car being turned around in the road, the smashed in hood, or why two of them are standing in the middle of the road. Go figure.
After Max drives on, the stooges load the body into the trunk of their car and take it to the docks. There, they argue some more about what to do but finally decide to go ahead and dump the body. As Angry Blonde Guy and Helen reach down to push the body into the water, the body's eyes suddenly fly open, and he grabs madly at them. What the heck? This guy got smashed by a car that was probably doing at least forty miles per hour, he slammed into the hood and roof, and then flew probably twenty feet before landing in the ditch on the other side of the road! And he lived? Ok, so maybe if the plot needs it to be so, I can buy that he lived. I can't, however, buy the idea that his very first reaction when he wakes up would be to grab maniacally at the people standing over him. I also can't buy that he would wake up so abruptly or be fully aware of his situation if he did. So maybe he didn't wake up just then -- maybe he was awake the whole time. Well, that doesn't make any sense -- why wouldn't he have spoken up when they were deciding whether or not to ditch his body? Maybe he woke up in the trunk of the car. Well, if I woke up in the trunk of a car, I'd start kicking or hitting the lid -- if I couldn't do that (like if my limbs were broken, like this man's should have been), I'd at least try to call for help. If for some reason I couldn't speak, I'd wait until someone opened the trunk, and then I'd grunt madly or stick out my tongue or roll my eyes or do something to show that I was alive. I certainly wouldn't let anyone drag me out of the trunk without trying to alert them to the fact that I wasn't dead.
So, that leaves us with the inescapable conclusion that this man, who by all rights should be dead or at the very least incapacitated, suddenly woke up with all his faculties about him and attacked the first person he saw. Yeah right.
Worse is yet to come, however. During the brief struggle before ABG and the others can push him off the dock, he grabs Helen's crown (you'll have to watch the movie to find out why she's wearing one) and sinks below the water with it, like the Lady of the Lake holding Excalibur. After that ludicrous shot, ABG jumps into the water to retrieve the crown. It looks like the guy is dead again, as he's floating in the reeds motionless. However, when ABG tries to get the crown away from him, his eyes fly open again, and they struggle for a bit. However, as soon as the crown is out of his grasp, he dies again. ABG brings the crown back.
Now here's another silly little point. When they were deciding what to do with the body, it was Julie's boyfriend Ray who came up with the idea of dumping the body in the water, because the currents were strong and the undertow would probably pull the guy out to sea. But there's no current in the water when ABG and the "dead" guy are struggling -- everything is dead calm. And I can think of about a hundred better places to dump a body in the ocean than right next to a dock. They could have at least gone to the beach they were at before and dumped him there. They didn't even bother to dump him off the end of the dock -- the chucked him right off the side.
Anyway, after all this silliness, we time slip a year. Julie is coming home from college, and she gets a letter, stating "I Know What You Did Last Summer," and the slashing begins. ABG instantly thinks that Max is the culprit, so he goes and roughs him up to keep him quiet. But of course, it's not Max -- in fact, Max is the first to fall victim to the real killer. Forgetting for a minute that the killer has absolutely no reason to kill Max, let's look at the way Max buys the farm. He gets a hook in his throat and dumps blood all over the pots he was boiling lobsters in. Then the killer drags him over the pots, and this is pretty much the last we see of Max. Also, this is apparently the last anyone ever even thinks about Max in this town, as neither his murder nor even his disappearance is ever discovered, even though there must have been blood everywhere and the whole event took place near a busy fishing dock and the killer must have had to drag his body down the dock to get it where it eventually ends up.
Next, Angry Blonde Guy is working out at the local gym and comes back to his locker to find a polaroid picture of his car there and his jacket missing. He runs outside in time to see his car speeding away. He chases after the car on foot, but the driver isn't trying to get away. Instead, he turns the car around and rams ABG through a wall with it. ABG doesn't die, however, or even get any real injuries, just a broken arm. The driver gets out to confront ABG, and we see that he is dressed in a long slicker and a rain cap, with something covering his face. He stands over ABG with his hook, and then the scene dissolves to ABG's hospital room. What? I find it hard to believe that this guy would create such a scene, bashing through walls and running people over, and then just leave his victim there for no reason. But that's exactly what happens.
From this point on the rest of the movie is structured as a guessing game, where the characters and the audience try to figure out who the killer is. The problem is, none of the people offered as potential killers are the least bit convincing, and the identity of the killer ends up coming totally out of left field -- it's not at all possible to guess who the killer is, because the character of the killer isn't even introduced until he is revealed as the killer.
The killer does other things to try and scare his victims before he kills them. He sneaks into Helen's house at night and chops off her prized blonde hair. Julie, while driving over to see Helen, hears noises in the trunk of her car. She pulls over (right on the lawn of someone's house in a fairly dense suburban neighborhood) and discoveres Max's body in the trunk of her car, covered with crabs and other sea creatures. She slams the trunk closed and runs to find ABG and Helen. When they get back to the car, however, Max's body is gone, along with all the crabs. I laughed so hard at this scene I almost died. Not only did this guy get Max's body and all these crabs into Julie's trunk without anyone noticing (and I'll give him a chance at that, since he probably did it at night and had the cover of darkness), he also gets it out of the trunk, along with every last crab, while the car is parked on someone's lawn, in the middle of a small neighborhood, in broad daylight. Furthermore, he got the body and the crabs away without anyone seeing him. Not to mention that he must have been scoping out Julie's house all night long, waiting for her to come out and take her car somewhere and hopefully discover the body. Not only is there no way anybody could pull this off, I can't imagine anyone being stupid enough to try it, with all of the possible pitfalls.
The next person to get offed is ABG. He buys it in the balcony of a crowded theater as the hook-wielding fisherman sneaks up behind him and whacks him half a dozen times. Even though a policeman is alerted to the scene scant seconds after the killing, ABG's body is long gone, and there is no blood on the floor where he got stuck. This is what I mean about the change in setting from the formulaic "secluded area." The filmmakers chose to set the film in the middle of a town but then just ignored all the consequences of that. Nobody ever sees this guy, who apparently walks around in the middle of summer with a heavy rain slicker and hat on when there isn't a cloud in the sky and the temperature must be in the 80s at least. He kills people who are never missed and manages to spirit away bodies without leaving any blood behind to be found. This is, plain and simple, filmmaking and story telling at its worst.
The next people to die are a random cop, followed by Helen's sister, then Helen. Helen takes forever to die, even though she doesn't really do anything of note in all the time she is "narrowly escaping" the killer.
Finally, we get the "big swerve" at the end, where we find out that all of the people who were set up as possible killers weren't, and the real killer is actually somebody entirely different who isn't even introduced until nearly the end anyway. The guy they hit wasn't the guy they thought they hit, and the guy they did hit didn't die, and...well, never mind, it's all inconsequential anyway. It would have been better if the killer had ended up being Ray, the fourth stooge. But instead, Ray and Julie have the big climactic confrontation with the real killer, where they "kill" him. Of course, since there is a sequel to this pointless exercise in ignorance and stupidity, the guy can't really be dead. But it doesn't matter to me, since I don't plan on seeing the sequel any time soon.
To sum up, although a group of people might like this movie, it's just painful alone. Give it a pass -- don't encourage these filmmakers to make more of these stupid movies by giving them money.
Scene to watch for: The hit and run.
Best line: "I understand your pain."
Things that make you go "Huh?": The last scene.