"Don't you think we should have some sort of a plan? Angela Lansbury always had a plan." This neurotic noodling from one of the hot young amateur detectives in I Know What You Did Last Summer embodies the postmodern pop culture flavor that found its way into the post-Scream horror film. Hot on the heels of that hit for Dimension Films, Columbia went to the source, hiring Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson to pen I Know What You Did Last Summer. In adapting Lois Duncan's young-adult thriller, Williamson changed the locale, devised a new killer and victim, and pumped up the violence. The results, as directed by Jim Gillespie, underwhelm—expect a reasonably well-made low-end pic that serves as a cautionary tale for callow teens.
Though the mystery plot isn't much more complicated than your average Murder She Wrote, Williamson's script does proceed from a suitably nasty premise to some R-rated horror sequences, locating the never-before-sought middle ground between a scary campfire story and Crime and Punishment. Before separating for college, Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and boyfriend Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze Jr.) enjoy one last boozy summer evening with their friends, boorish Barry William Cox (Ryan Philippe) and beauty queen Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar). A subsequent drive on the ominously named seaside road Reaper's Curve results in the car mowing down a pedestrian who has picked a very, very bad place to take a walk. A moral and practical debate ensues in the middle of the road, with the result that the foursome take the body to a pier to reluctantly dump it in the ocean.
It's a harrowing place to begin the story (with the clean-up job excruciating in its unease), but once we get into the proper plot it prefaces—a mystery/slasher genre piece—things get a lot less gripping. One year after the hit-and-run, the young adults receive threats such as a note reading, "I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER." Who knows, and what is he or she going to do about it? Soon the mysterious murderer, who may or may not be their presumed-dead victim, begins making vigorous attempts on the teens' lives. Thus, they become amateur detectives, looking into the life of their victim and attempting to head off their tormentor. Among other destinations, the path leads to a creepy fishmonger played by Anne Heche.
The killer appears in a form that suggests he's an urban legend come to life, an imposing shadow in a slicker and wielding a fish hook. Yep, he looks pretty much like the Gorton's Fisherman on a bad day. The routine bulk of the film can be mildly scary, though Gillespie completely squanders a good setup with one of the characters locked in the back of a squad car as the killer approaches. Much better, and actually memorable, is the moment when a character is murdered so close yet so far from escape, in an alleyway mere steps away from a fireworks-festooned parade. In a way, it's a metaphor for the movie: close but no cigar.
One of a trio of new horror Blu-Rays from Sony, the new disc of I Know What You Did Last Summer replicates the 2003 DVD special edition (bundled in a box with sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer). The Blu-Ray transfer is head and shoulders above any previous home-video presentation, expertly handling the many night sequences and providing a nice level of detail all around, including on the robust Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track. Of course, this Sony disc is BD-Live enabled, with special content available on the web.
Foremost among the extras is an audio commentary with director Jim Gillespie and editor Steve Mirkovich. A highly detailed nuts-and-bolts accounting of the production in terms of photography and sets, the track is also—it must be said—rather dull. Still, film students may learn a few useful tips before embarking on their own studio horror pictures. Along those lines, a very welcome bonus feature is Gillespie's short film "Joyride" (10:10). Accurately described by one critic as "Die Hard in the trunk of a car," the film is an impressive calling card with plenty of cleverly conceived action on a budget. Gillespie provides an optional solo commentary for "Joyride."
"Now I Know What You Did Last Summer" (27:05) is a 2003 retrospective on the film, covering its inception, the cast and director, the ideas behind the movie (there's a thought!), the key sequences, and the challenges of shooting on water. Particpants include Gillespie, producers Stokely Chaffin and Erik Feig, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Anne Heche. We also get the music video "Hush" (2:56), performed by Kula Shaker, and the film's Theatrical Trailer (2:19). All special features are in standard definition. Fans of the all-star young cast will appreciate this upgrade to a fondly remembered horror title.
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