I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER is the sort of movie that airs on television about 1,053 times a year and carries with it a few simple rewards, few of which are related to its quality or capacity. This 1997 slasher is evidently (and loosely) based on a 1973 novel of the same name by Lois Duncan, with a screenplay by SCREAM’s Kevin Williamson. I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER isn’t as clever or knowing as SCREAM, but it unpacks in a reliable fashion and features quite a few workable parts.
Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze, Jr., and Sarah Michelle Gellar are the most workable of parts. They play a group of teenagers and they’re graduating high school. One night, they run someone over and get rid of the body because a little unintentional murder is always devastating to young lives. A year later, someone starts pestering the group about the killing. There are a few suspects and paranoia grows. Soon, the bodies start piling up and a murderer with a rain slicker is on the loose.
I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER is the function of formula, but with a hook. There is a crime, a coverup. There is reprisal, but the audience sides with the original sinners because they’re just a bunch of well-meaning, doe-eyed kids. By the time the picture ends, a cop asks Prinze, Jr.’s character if he has any idea why the slicker-wearing executioner would want the group dead. Holding his girlfriend in his arms, he poker-faces ahead and tells the truth. “None,” he says.
Leaving aside questions of morality and sin, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER runs the gamut of teenage slasher fare. The killer chases around some attractive youths, with the pliable girls and muscular guys providing plenty of pre-vampire eye candy. There’s a lot of screaming and chasing and jump scares. Anne Heche shows up as a distant lady whose entire life is a jump scare. And Johnny Galecki, a red herring in a fishing town, is obviously the better fit for Julie (Hewitt). Right?