Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Know What You Did Last Summer

Back when the 80s came to a close, a lot of horror movies were being released that really nailed the coffin shut on the genre.  The early 90s gave us quite a few stinkers that had everybody considering that it just might be the death of horror movies.  This was the time when theFriday the 13th franchise was sold to New Line Cinema which gave us one of the worst entries (Jason Goes to Hell), the Leprechaun series was another terrible chain of films that I can’t believe spewed so many sequels, and A Nightmare on Elm Street churned out some duds as well.  It surely seemed like horror movies during the early 90s went too far into the campier side of things, making the films goofier and less scary.

I had nearly given up on trekking out to theaters every time a new horror film was released, thinking that it will just be another cheesy letdown (there’s nothing worse than going to see some stupid film that you end up hating, especially when you’re spending around ten bucks to see it).  However, I still ventured out and was able to see some films that made the cut in my mind—but they were few and far between.  It wasn’t until Scream had hit the screens in 1996 that the horror genre took a turn back for the better, giving us a better horizon and a restored outlook of horror’s future.

It was the first time, in a long while, where people spread the word and talked about how good that movie had been.  Being that this was the time before social media or texting or even emailing became a craze…people used word-of-mouth, literally, to spread the news about Scream.

Nevertheless, and as always, when an original idea comes out that takes the world by storm, all kinds of copycats start popping up, diluting the waters and making that innovative model more of a tiresome concept.  But throughout all the boring films that came out, haphazardly emulating Wes Craven’s work, a few were worthy of enjoying.  One, which was released ten months after Scream, was the 1997 hit, I Know What You Did Last Summer.

As it so happens, the writer of Scream, Kevin Williamson, also penned this screenplay.  However, the difference here with this movie compared to the Craven film was that this one was based on an already-written novel of the same name.  Although the book was originally published in 1973 as a thriller for young adults, most of the story’s framework remained the same.  However, the movie’s script receives some embellishment to give it the slasher movie appeal—I’ll get to that later.

For now, let me synopsize it for you.

The film is about a foursome of friends: boyfriend and girlfriend, Ray and Julie (Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt), and another couple, Barry and Helen (Ryan Phillippe and Sarah Michelle
Gellar).  Celebrating the Fourth of July, they take Barry’s car for a drive, partying and having a good time.  When coming around a bend in the road on the outskirts of their coastal town, they fail to see a young man in the middle of the road and hit him.  After stopping and checking on him, they find that he’s dead.  Barry panics and tells the others that the police won’t believe that it was an accident, especially with the alcohol in the car.  With much conviction, he convinces the rest of them that they should dump his body in the ocean.  They argue a bit, but reluctantly agree to do so.  A year later, after all four had gone their separate ways, Julie receives a letter in the mail with no return address.  Upon opening the envelope, there is a piece of paper with one simple sentence written in capital letters: ‘I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.’

Okay, so this horror flick was directed by Jim Gillespie.  Who is he?  I really don’t know.  His résumé on IMDb shows he directed some television series and a couple of movies before getting this gig.  Since then, he took the helm of four other films before taking on the producer role of some British TV show.  Nonetheless, he was able to get some solid performances out of the lead actors and actresses, created a nice eerie mood in a lot of scenes, and looked to have a good career in his future when this movie was released to rave reviews.

Now, just like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Leatherface, and so on, this movie brought us a new icon of terror with…The Fisherman.  The Fisherman?  Yes, that’s right.  As corny as it sounds on paper, the way this character is displayed in the first two-thirds of this film is great.  The villain gives us some nice scares and the vision of the getup left me unnerved.  Basically, the guy is dressed in a rain slicker, waders and rubber boots with a matching rubber fishing hat that shadows his face perfectly.  His weapon of choice?  A meat hook—characteristic of the type fishermen use to pick up and move large fish they’ve caught.  Just like slashers from the 80s, The Fisherman from I Know What You Did Last Summer stalks his prey, one-by-one, while the whole film has a serious tone and doesn’t get campy like many horror movies of the early 90s had done with poor results.

By the way, that’s the difference between this film and the book it’s based off—the inclusion of this guise the villain takes on.  Also, the identity of who’s wearing the fisherman’s outfit is different as well.  I told you I’d get to that later…I’m a man of my word.

In my opinion, all four of the leads were made into well-known stars because of this film.  Freddie Prinze Jr. (son of the “Chico and the Man” star) had a few small roles in TV and movies before getting the lead in this one.  The same can be said for Gellar, Hewitt and Phillippe.  But just like Neve Campbell, et al, after starring in Scream, these young actors took the roles seriously and played them as such.  Thus, it solidified them as good actors with a nice future ahead of them.

It’s disappointing that this franchise didn’t get much further than it had over the years.  I Still Know What You Did Last Summer was released the following year, but the story was so contrived and a little on the campy side of things that it just made it forgettable and not worth seeing again.  Some like to say that Brandy had a hand in it, and I might agree, as she cannot act her way out of a paper bag.  About 8 years ago, it was tried once more to resurrect the franchise with a staright-to-video release of I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer.  Looking at the film’s bio, I see that no one from the original cast is in it and it really has no tie to the original films besides the persona of The Fisherman.  Word has it that the franchise may be rebooted…if you know how I feel about reboots, you know I won’t go on from there.

Overall, my final “bit” on I Know What You Did Last Summer is that the film is a great stand-alone
horror flick, so don’t go ruining the experience by seeing the sequels.  From start to finish, this film entertains and scares you.  It actually boasts a pretty good murder-mystery “whodunit” tale to it, leaving you guessing who the killer may be.  Though the ending leaves something to be desired, it still grabs you and leaves you satisfied by the time the credits roll.  Even though the film takes place during the summer, this is still a great movie to watch during the Halloween season.

Thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

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