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review added: 10/31/00



I Know What You Did Last Summer
1997 (1998) - Columbia TriStar

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

I Know What You Did Last Summer Film Rating: C

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/C-

Specs and Features

101 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), double-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, filmmakers' commentary, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Spanish and French, Closed Captioned


"We should have a plan. Angela Lansbury always had a plan."

Soon after the success of Scream, the Hollywood studios all scrambled as quickly as they could to get similar products out of the pre-production stages and into theatres. After all, what worked in the early 1980s was finally working again - cheap, slick-looking horror was making a killing at the box office.

It should then be no surprise that I Know What You Did Last Summer, the first direct cash-in on the Scream juggernaut, did very well in the typically slow autumn movie-going season. It also did something Scream wasn't able to accomplish - it went to number one at the box office and stayed there for three weeks. When the dust finally settled, IKWYDLS grossed over $70 million in domestic receipts.

That said, you'd think this one would be an achievement worthy of the kind of praise bestowed upon its predecessor. Well, no... and far from it. Like the young adult novel by Lois Duncan on which it is based, this film is designed to make teenagers jump and scream and never think about it again once it's done. It is no more than a series of scares held loosely together by a very thin plot.

The story starts on July 4th, in a small coastal North Carolina town, as Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is being crowned Croaker Queen (no kidding). Her friends Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), Ray (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and Barry (Ryan Phillippe) are all there to cheer her on and support her. Later on that evening, they head to the beach to have a small party. Once there, they get drunk, make out, have sex and swap stories about hook-handed murderers and other urban legends.

On the way home, they get into an accident and mistakenly kill someone. Rather than go to the police and tell them of their mishap, they decide that dropping the body off in the ocean (where people in a small fishing town will never look) would be the safest option to their bright futures. One of the problems with this movie is that we aren't told the significance or identity of the person killed until the very end of the movie. The director instead focuses in on a small trinket left at the site of the cover-up to throw us off.

A year later, none of these kids are talking to each other, and they all feel really bad about what they did. They're all doing horribly in school, their hair is bad and they've let their personal hygiene go to hell. That's truly a telltale sign of discontent for a bunch of Tiger Beat pin-ups. What follows is a series of murders committed by someone avenging the death of whoever was killed last summer. The identity of the killer is arbitrary information that we obviously aren't given until the very end of the film.

The movie is made like a whodunit, but there is no way imaginable of guessing the identity of the killer - not even if you read the book. Kevin Williamson, who also wrote Scream, penned IKWYDLS. As indicated in the DVD insert, he altered a few things about the book, including the killer's identity. If the movie were only a series of scares, and not an attempt to make it something more than that, it would have been more effective than it is. Some of the scenes are good, but more often they're ludicrous as the interchangeable stars get themselves in and out of one impossible situation after another.

The anamorphic transfer used for the DVD is very good. The one real strong point of the movie is its cinematography. Director Jim Gillespie and cinematographer Denis Crossan seem to have studied John Carpenter's compositional style, and this comes across very nicely on DVD. There is some noticeable edge enhancement and the print seems a little unclean, but neither of these factors is very distracting. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is efficient, but more use of the discreet rear channels would have been nice. The opening helicopter shot of the ocean has some fine panning effects as waves crash against rocks, and is a good indicator of what most of the movie is like. Bass levels are strong but not overpowering and dialogue is always clear.

This is not an extras-heavy DVD, but it's not terrible either. The commentary track by Gillespie and Steve Mirkovich (the film's editor) is somewhat enlightening, but I really had to crank up the volume to hear what they were saying. Not only are they both soft-spoken, but the sound level of the actual track is exceedingly low. The film's theatrical trailer is also included here, but that's all you get.

I Know What You Did Last Summer does not hide the fact that it's an obvious attempt to cash in on the resurgence of the slasher genre. It not only rips off some well-known horror movies, but also some more obscure ones too. When Helen's sister Elsa (Bridgette Wilson from The House on Haunted Hill) is killed, well-studied fans of the horror field will recognize the similarity to Warner's creepy and far superior 1974 film Black Christmas. But until that cult film makes its way to DVD (hint, hint Warner!) you'll have to settle for this one and the myriad others that are already available.

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com




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