It’s Friday once again, meaning it’s time for the third film in the vault’s four-part series, The Fourth in Winter. We’ve featured a film full of summer camp fun and another about serving up drinks on a beach, but not every summer film can be a delightful romp in the sun. And bonus points to me because this selection was filmed in my home state. NC Represent!
It’s the annual Croaker Festival down on the NC coast and Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is competing for the Croaker Queen crown while her boyfriend Barry (Ryan Phillippe) and their friends, Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Ray (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), cheer her to victory. They celebrate her win with a romp on Dawson’s Beach, but the night gets interesting after the four hit a man while driving home. A drunken, belligerent Barry convinces his frantic friends that, even though it was an accident, they should dump the body in the ocean and make a pact to never speak of it again. One year later, Julie returns from college, the weight of her sins taking their toll, only to receive a letter that reads, “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER!” Terrified, she seeks out her co-conspirators to find they are being similarly harassed. Together they work to discover who is tormenting them with their tragic secret.
I Know What You Did Last Summer is the first feature film for director Jim Gillespie, and despite it being his second produced feature, it’s the first script offering from writer Kevin Williamson (NC Represent!). Strange fact; the film is actually based on a novel of the same name from Lois Duncan although the film has no resemblance to her book save for the characters’ names and the initial premise.
I haven’t seen I Know What You Did Last Summer in ages, but it’s every bit as atrocious as I remember. Despite being somewhat seasoned actors by this time in their careers, these youngbloods’ performances are dreadful. Phillippe chews up the scenery with his unbottled rage; Love Hewitt and Gellar scream real well (and a lot), and Prinze just looks desperate and clueless. It might have helped had they even bothered to feign a North Carolina accent. Johnny Galecki, who has a small role as Max, Julie’s would-be boyfriend, sports a drawl in at least two of his four brief scenes so kudos to him. On a side note, revisiting Last Summer does make me miss Gellar’s cute, baby-fat roundness.
I don’t blame the actors for my apathy. That blame goes to the director and producers who think it’s fine to randomly insert winding mountain cliffs along the coast of North Carolina. Geographic snafus don’t bother most moviegoers unless it’s in their own backyard, but there’s no excuse for picking a goth version of Summer Breeze for your film’s opening. What is most annoying about Last Summer is having a slasher with completely muddled, incomprehensible motivation. The mysterious ‘Fisherman’ seems to be targeting these four kids for the sins of their previous summer, yet he has no problem gutting acquaintances who happen to cross his path. His first kill annihilates the logic behind his ominous notes. It’s fine if he were just a deranged, opportunistic murderer, but if you set up your killer to have a modus operandi, then stick to it for fuck’s sake.
The lack of rhyme or reason doesn’t end there. The killer loads/unloads car trunks with crabs and dead bodies in broad daylight, all while wearing a heavy ass slicker… in the middle of summer. Helen confronts Julie on her distant behavior by asking, I shit you not, “What happened between us?” Julie’s tops grow smaller and more revealing with each new day. Even though Julie discovers the true killer’s identity, she still manages to accuse someone else in the film’s halfhearted effort to produce some manner of final-act twist.
As crappy as I Know What You Did Last Summer is, it somehow managed to earn over $125 million at the box office. It’s just further proof that bounteous cleavage can detract from even the most inane prattle.