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I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Rated R

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Freddie Prinze, Jr.

Rating:
*
out of
*****

Slasher movies had gone out of style in the early 1990's and remained that way until 1996's Scream brought the genre new life with its unexpected success. The man responsible for the screenplay of Scream, Kevin Williamson, penned the screenplay for this 1997 summer hit, based on a Lois Duncan young adult thriller.

Four friends find themselves committing a crime when they accidently hit a man with their car on a deserted road. Rather than fess up to the accident -- which they feel could ruin their futures -- they decide to cover everything up by dumping the body in the ocean. The death is ruled accidental and everything seems fine. Fine, that is, until the next summer, when they individually begin receiving threats from someone who seems to know what really happened on that night.

The movie begins with an interesting plot, semi-intelligent characters and a fair amount of tension and suspense. However, the film slowly degenerates into a standard "filmmaker-sees-Halloween, filmmaker-copies-Halloween" affair. Non-essential characters are sacrificed to the fisherman with a hook who serves as the movie's gimmicky killer, ala Freddy or Jason. Even Scream had a gimmicky killer, but it was part of that film's parody of horror films and fit the mood. Here, he's just another copy of what we've been seeing since John Carpenter sent Michael Myers on his first spree in rural America in 1978.

Kevin Williamson seems to have lost his sense of what doesn't work anymore in slasher movies. The characters get instant fright-induced lobotomies when confronted with a life-threatening situation and constantly put themselves in danger. Would a character in Scream utter the line, "Come on, sit in the back and I'll let you do things to me?" I don't think so. It breaks the "rules" set forth in Scream. Williamson will probably hate the fact that, if he stays in the slasher movie genre, every movie he writes will be benchmarked by those rules.

It's a shame that I Know What You Did Last Summer is completely undeserving of its success (and its forthcoming and inevitable sequel). It could have been a good film had it not swerved haphazardly into the body of stupidity standing in the middle of the road.

Trivia: Jennifer Love Hewitt can be seen in Sister Act 2 as Margaret. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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