Twelve Things about I Know What You Did Last Summer
12. After Scream, this movie had a lot to live up to. But I like to be fair in both the viewing and reviewing, so this will be my last mention of Kevin Williamson's other movie in this post. =P
11. But I think I can mention that campy, ultimately implausible Urban Legend, if only because I Know What You Did Last Summer is leaps and bounds ahead of it in everything except 90s pop culture markers. For a while, I even thought that the scene introducing our four leads should have been the one where they are gathered around a bonfire on the beach, arguing about the urban legend of the killer with a hook--which is pure Williamson, you know?
10. Yet the small-town pageant in which we first see them is very significant. It helps drive home the difference between "last summer," when Helen wins the crown, and this summer, when she has to accept that she can't have everything she has dreamed of, not even this bit of glittery glory.
Notice, however, that it also turns Helen into the central character of the story, when she isn't supposed to be.
9. Before we go on, let's have some "Who's Who"--which I had to play for an entire hour into the movie because the baby brother watching with me was born at the end of the 90s and didn't know who any of these young stars were . . .
This is not the cast of Dawson's Creek! =P
From left to right:
"Helen" is played by the star of TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer--which did for girls what the Alien movies must have done for women
"Barry" is played by the hearthrob of the movie Cruel Intentions--which blazed a trail for all the trashy teenagers in entertainment over the next decade
"Julie" is played by a supporting actress from TV's Party of Five--which gave us a family edgier than the two previous decades' single parent households (See my Top 5 TV Families!)
"Ray" is played by . . . uh . . . Sarah Michelle Gellar's husband
(Well, Baby Bro did recognise the evil girlfriend from the remake of The Parent Trap. Do we give him a point for that? =P)
8. Back to Helen, who nearly steals the whole movie from under Final Girl Julie's nose. Seriously. Just compare her extended cat-and-mouse scenes with the killer to those Julie gets at the climax, and you'll know who the real star is . . . which is kind of ironic.
I think Gellar is perfectly cast as Helen, the prettiest girl in their small fishing village who thinks she has every chance of making it as an actress in the big city . . .
. . . only to return home one year later, having clearly failed to land a single audition. She must have come up against so many other girls with the same big dream to realise that she was never actually as talented . . . or as pretty . . . as she had always believed. In Gellar we see a similar mix of that youthful freshness, girlish prettiness and just-average ability which can carry a woman only so far in the world.
Yeah, she's my favourite character. =P
7. As for Julie . . . there is really nothing to say about her except that she's obviously the good girl, and that any up-and-coming young ingenue of the 90s could have played her. =S
(I really wish they had rewritten the whole thing to make Helen the heroine and give an otherwise run-of-the-mill Final Girl a completely unique arc . . . but how could have they have known in advance how perfectly Gellar would play her?)
6. And now it really must be said: the killer is completely erratic. Our characters make excellent mice for his game, but he is a cat who relies far too much on his luck . . . and on their stupidity. Not impressive.
5. Oh, yeah . . . I'm not too crazy about a revenge killer taking out a completely innocent victim. Okay, so our villain is a psycho. Does he have to be an illogical psycho? (It certainly doesn't help that the biggest red herring is the first to fall.)
4. Something I found really interesting was that my brother identified so completely with the four leads at the beginning that he was yelling at them to get rid of the body faster so that they wouldn't get caught! That happens to be the perfect reaction to evil in a morality play . . . but I Know What You Did Last Summer is, even with the characterisation of Helen, not the best morality play. (Dude, where's my catharsis?)
3. On a related note, I think that all of us will be able to relate to their reaction to those seven seemingly innocent words:
Is there anyone here who can honestly
2. I don't know enough about the American South to know how this North Carolina-set film fits into the tradition of Southern Gothic. But I bet that if I continue down this reading/viewing path, I'll soon be more articulate about why the Egan house reminds me of another setting--one straight out of William Faulkner's fiction.
1. Did you know that this movie is based on a novel of the same title by Lois Duncan? I can't decide whether I should read it or not . . . What say you?
Image Sources: a) I Know What You Did Last Summer DVD, b) I Know What You Did Last Summer cast, c) Helen (Before), d) Helen (After), e) Anonymous Note