THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Directed by Jim Gillespie
“Few think of I Know What You Did Last Summer as premium whiskey, but it ain’t the cheap stuff neither.”
Ah…1997. Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow sadly split. HBO committed to HD programming (it’d take a while). Mike Tyson ate Evander Holyfield (well, his ear). And I Know What You Did Last Summer continued the horror resurgence trend as the genre had reinvented itself with Scream and somewhat broke away from the recycled formulas of the 1980s. While Wes Craven rightfully gets the respect from his work on Scream, the real man to honor is Kevin Williamson, who returned horror to the teenage years finding ways to make it all seem relevant once again without slicing out the good stuff.
How? Well, it’s not simple to explain, but think of it this way. Both Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer found that delicate balance between gore, campiness, and teen angst. They were slick productions, but they weren’t sloppy either. They were easily accessible to mass audiences and did the little things quality horror needs: some scares, some hot women, some blood, and one maniac. Not a perfect formula, but Williamson had a way of taking those painfully tired stereotypes and breathing a little life into a deflated corpse.
At least that’s the way I remember it. Let’s face it. Few think of IKWUDLS (that’s a long title to keep typing) as premium whiskey, but it ain’t the cheap stuff neither. Its quality goods that won’t disappoint. Unless you’re hoping for Love Hewitt or Michelle Gellar nude or you’re in search of something sophisticated …then it will disappoint. And if that’s the case, why would you read a column like this one?
Ok…so looking back... IKWUDLS relies on the same tried clichés that all horror does…right down to the campfire scene on the beach where the four graduating seniors (the jock, the beauty queen, the smart girl, the soft guy) all exchange ghost stories about a man with a hook. But so what. The movie knows it can’t stray too far from what works, but at least it doesn’t feel tired. IKWUDLS remembers to have a little fun while still spilling a few pounds of guts and working in the occasional stabbing. You know, the important things of horror.
Speaking of the important things, IKWUDLS owes a great debt to their luck in casting with a damn great collection of actors with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze Jr (does he still count as famous?), Anne Heche, and even the guy from the Big Bang Theory Johnny Galecki. That’s not just a lot of names for a teen horror movie, but mostly A names. It’s something that should happen way more.
With all this praise, I gotta give the biggest knock of IKWUDLS thanks to Scary Movie, which parodied perhaps some of the biggest moments…notably the Love Hewitt spin around sequence “What are you waiting for!!!” and Michelle Gellar’s meltdown during the beauty pageant. They captured those moments perfectly, leaving it impossible to revisit IKWUDL and not laugh. However, it’s not like the movie doesn’t have plenty of stupidity all alone with my favorite dumb element … the letter. When Love Hewitt receives it, the note inside threatens "I Know What You Did Last Summer!" written, of course, in perfect handwriting. As if a deranged killed could possibly have such fine penmanship. Please.
Even with the Wayne’s brothers spoiling the fun years later, they couldn’t diminish the impact of the killer. Yeah, so maybe a fisherman dressed in rainslicks isn’t all that frightening, but that hook, man, it works. There’s a great, small moment when the fisherman drags Michelle Gellar’s sister across the floor with the hook firmly in place in her side. It’s damn brutal looking. The film never goes overboard with gore, but it always reminds audiences that the brutal killshot isn't always necessary.