12 August 2008
I Know What You Did Last Summer, dir. Jim Gillespie (1997)
Couple days ago we watched an episode of VH1's Super Secret Movie Rules featuring Slashers. While it tried to go through the "rules" of a slasher film - Sluts Must Die, Loners are Goners, etc. (most of which were covered in Scream, anyway) - it didn't work for me because it went movie by movie instead of rule by rule. You bring up one rule, you can talk about eight, ten movies and how each handled it. Instead, they focused on one movie and how it handled a specific rule. Kind of backwards, but no one asked me.
However, since the movies were presented in chronological order, we got to see an overview of the evolution of the Slasher flick, from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974 to "the beginning of the end for the horror film" (as Joe Bob Briggs put it) with Scream in 1997 to the complete travesty that is the Scary Movie series in the present. It was kinda fascinating.
One of the movies covered in the chronology was, of course, I Know What You Did Last Summer. I saw it in the theatre, and I remembered not hating it. But once again, memory has used me hard and left me bleeding.
There's s plenty to hate about this movie. Kevin Williamson's script, for starters. It's not uber-smart like Dawson's Creek, and it's not clever like Scream. In fact, it's the opposite of both - ultra-dumb and derivative. How many times can the Killer predict where each of our Teen Stars is going to be in order to jump out at them? A lot, it seems. He can also pack a dead body and about a thousand crabs in the back of J. Love's car, and when she runs off for help, remove the body and the crabs in a matter of minutes - in broad daylight. Niiiice! There's also the matter of the Killer wearing this rain slicker all the way through the film, right up to the end where he pops out in Average Joe Wear because we're supposed to not know it's him. It should be noted, too, that Ryan Phillippe is just plain awful as the asshole boyfriend who's first instinct in a crisis is to yell incomprehensibly and grab people by the throat. Not that that's Williamson's fault, I guess, I'm just saying.
I'm left wondering what the moral of the story is, here. These four kids are involved in a hit-and-run, are stalked and killed (along with at least two people who had nothing to do with the hit-and-run whatsoever, but whatever), and don't cop to it in the end, anyway. Where's the acceptance of responsibility? I'm pretty sure that goes against one of the rules, yeah?
Wow, does it take me back. To the days of Dawson's Creek and Party of Five and afternoon-long talks on the phone with Deb about Dawson's Creek and Party of Five. Those were the days, too, when Love Hewitt's tight shirt was the height of contemporary sexy. Compared to 10 years later, she may as well be Amish in this.
So, that's about all this movie is needed for today. A flashback to times gone by. To new horror and Love on the music charts. The movie is not at all frightening -- it never really was. And it does very little to advance what appeared at the time to be an advancing genre. At least in a direction away from the norm pre-Scream. But as Kevin Williamson's follow-up to Scream, this needed to be far better than it was.
I thought Williamson was up on horror, as demonstrated by Scream. But when you look at this, he appears to know very little. People die who needn't, there's very little suspense, and the killer, unlike Jason or Michael, alters his MO when it suits the mood. Faceless black slickered ghoul one minute, nice old man with no black slicker the next, for instance. It just didn't come together well enough to be any kind of memorable piece.
Still nostalgia value gives it a place in our collection. That and Love is hard to throw away.