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I Know What You Did Last Summer

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: I Know What You Did Last Summer

Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar
Director: Jim Gillespie
Rated: R
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: October 1997
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

At a recent media celebration of the work of Boris Karloff, a name virtually synonymous with the genre of horror, a speaker noted that Karloff would not like today's slasher movies. Karloff was more interested in psychological depth, leaving the gore and carnage to the viewers' imaginations. He made sure that the evils perpetrated by his Frankenstein monster were the result of the creature's loneliness and rejection by society. This emphasis in no way detracted from the horror of what he did: we feel for the young woman who is slain despite the monster's cognizance of her beauty.

Now, "I Know What You Did Last Summer" treads pretty lightly on psychological depth. Still, director Jim Gillespie, using a screenplay by Kevin "Scream" Williamson, can't help showing how the four adolescents who are at first "eternally committed" to one another and to their future goals but become in a year's time more realistic and mature human beings. The accent, though, is on creating terror for the audience, and judging by the screeches of the mostly high- school crowd at a test screening, it succeeds admirably. Following the usual route of the genre, "I Know What You Did" highlights false alarms (that sudden tap on your shoulder is just a concerned Mom, not The Beast); scenes of savage butchery (executed with a large fish knife, as though the usual, human-size prosthetic arm were not scary enough); and a bigger-than-life looney tunes dude on the loose and madly seeking revenge.

What elevates this movie above the usual for the category is a quartet of charming performers in the role of ditzy youth at a important crossroad in their lives. The four inseparable buddies have just graduated from their Southport, North Carolina high school, about to go their separate ways, and celebrating their last night of true togetherness in a liquor- soaked drive down a desolate road. When Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.), distracted by his drunken pal Barry (Ryan Phillippe), accidentally plows into a man who is unexpectedly walking across the road, they panic. Call the cops? That could threaten their plans. After all Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) is about to go to an Ivy League college; Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who has just been named beauty queen, is to go to New York to study acting; Barry, a jock, has his heart set on playing football in Boston where Julie will study law. They dump the body in the ocean and make a pact to seal their lips. The body, inauspiciously, does not remain dead for long. Stalking the foursome and intent on vengeance, the accident victim plots a gruesome strategy to toy with the young people and to murder them.

As with other movies of this type, the body count is kept low during the first half, though false alarms are plentiful. When the murders take place, they are not clean affairs...bodies are slashed unmercifully and dragged unceremoniously to be dumped in car trunks and other intimidating points. The need to evoke shrieks and howls from the audience takes a front seat, pretty much leaving wit and credibility behind. For example, why should the first victim be a guy who is not only innocent of any role in the accident, but who feels nothing but contempt and envy for the perpetrators? As for repartee, we get sound bites likes that uttered by Julie's freshman roommate at the end of the first college years, "Get some sun on that tasty pale tail o yours," and from Barry to the girls, "You look like s*** run over twice."

Anne Hache does a standout job in a small role as the sister of a man who allegedly committed suicide. Her tics and hesitant manner handily display her vulnerability. Freddie Prinze Jr. and Julie James are well cast as a troubled girl on the verge of flunking out of college because of her guilt feelings and a boy who realizes his culpability and tries to come to terms with his conscience.

"I Know What You Did Last Summer" features a coda which, rather than form a peaceful unravelling of the tension, produces a frightening scene which virtually says, "Next Year: Sequel."

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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