Saturday 5 November 2011

Movie Review: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

A couple of eye-catching performances cannot elevate I Know What You Did Last Summer above routine slasher fare. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar prove themselves to be better than the material, Ryan Phillipe and Freddie Prinze Jr. do not, and the script falls foul of overcomplicating the premise and self-destructing on the rock of introducing the perpetrator too late into the body count.

In a small fishing town, four friends are celebrating their graduation from high school. Julie (Hewitt), her boyfriend Ray (Prinze Jr.), beauty queen Helen (Gellar) and rich kid Barry (Phillippe) are driving on a winding beachfront road when they accidentally strike and kill a stranger who suddenly wanders in front of their car. The four friends throw the body in the water and pledge to never discuss the matter. One year later, Julie is visiting home from college when she receives a handwritten note claiming "I Know What You Did Last Summer!". Soon, a mysterious executioner dressed in a raincoat starts to commit gruesome murders using a fishing hook.

Hewitt achieved deserved fame after I Know What You Did Last Summer became a box office success, and deservedly so. As Julie, Hewitt packs her tiny 5' 2" frame with a dark intensity mixed with defiance that doesn't quite overcome all the vulnerability, and while she can dominate a horror flick, she immediately establishes herself as capable of much more.

Also good but more comfortable within the confines of the genre is Gellar, who plays Helen as a flighty blond but with a mischievous smile dancing behind her lips, almost giving away the fun that she is having. Gellar would find her niche perfecting this semi-serious feisty damsel role on TV's Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Hewitt and Gellar make sure that I Know What You Did Last Summer is fetching enough, but behind them lies the void, and director Jim Gillespie has little to work with beyond his two leading ladies. Prinze Jr. is lightweight enough to disappear to among the extras, and Philippe overcooks his intensity to a charred crisp. The script by Kevin Williamson ties itself in knots to avoid the obvious conclusion, rushing in the final 10 minutes to introduce a surprise murder sub-plot and a nondescript evil guy.

I Know What You Did Last Summer may have a couple of good answers, but not enough to pass the test of all seasons.

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