14 January 2011


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 . . .

Kids, the main thing to remember:
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.

Helen Last Summer

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 . . .

Helen This Summer

. . . 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 cast the first stone say that he doesn't have something to hide?

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


Sullivan McPig said...

13: the opening scene is the most beautiful scene in the whole movie I think. Type O Negative playing, beautiful shot of a dark ocean. Perfect!


Enbrethiliel said...


You're right that it's absolutely lovely, Sully. On the other hand, it's so beautiful that it turns the rest of the movie into kind of a let down. =S I don't think they really fit together properly: the intro is so romantic; the rest of it, so . . . something I'll need a few more hours to attach a word to. =P

Sullivan McPig said...

You got a point there. Still it's cool to have a movie use a song of one of the bands I like and make it into such a beautiful moody scene. Doesn't happen often.

Enbrethiliel said...


It's certainly a very stylish sequence. I can imagine it making a startlingly beautiful music video, especially with that track they chose for it. The visuals and the music do fit each other like a glove.

Lesa said...

I actually saw this one since it was pre-Ring-- sure don't remember much about it as your 12 things are only vaguely familiar.

Oh, those words on the note are chilling. I have the same reaction whenever someone says "I saw you...'-- Doesn't matter if they finish with last week, yesterday, st Walmart, going down the road. Cause there is really no telling exactly what I was doing, is there-- hopefully nothing too embarrassing!

Yes, read it-- if you can find it! It'll be fun to see what the real story is-- then you can do a book to film post. I don't seek these books out but if I find one I'm compelled to read it. Just lately, I found several thrift books of movies I've seen-- one is Washington Square-- remember me mentioning watching the 1940s movie The Heiress based on it months ago.

Enbrethiliel said...


I know there's another Horror (or Horror-esque) movie which plays on a similar formula. Two girls prank call random people and say nothing but, "I know who you are and I saw what you did." They hang up giggling when one guy they call is turned on by the phone call and wants to hear more (LOL!), but they bite off more than they intended when another guy turns out to be a real criminal!

About the book: at first I didn't want to read it, because I still have all the images in the movie fresh in my mind . . . but then someone said it is completely different from the movie, anyway--Kevin Williamson just took the title and the idea of a hushed-up hit-and-run--so I guess I don't have to wait for the memories of the movie to fade before I read it! =)

The Mike said...

Man, I bet it's been 8 years at least since I scoped this one out. I think you hit on something with Helen/Gellar, who I found far more interesting than Julie/Hewitt. Then again, I had a mad crush on Gellar back then too. *blush*

I actually think I prefer Urban Legend, just because it plays like one of those "More Scary Stories" books I loved as a kid with all the different urban legends. And the Total Eclipse of the Heart opening makes me swoon.

But, I'm definitely revisiting this one soon now, because your commentary makes me want to try it again. Good stuff, ma'am!

Enbrethiliel said...


You could say that I had a "girl crush" on Gellar, too. =P But ten years down the road, I think most people still agree that Helen would have made a better Final Girl than Julie.

I think Urban Legend had a lot of potential and a great opening sequence (Whose heart doesn't sink inwardly when the gas station attendant's message becomes clear?), but I found the rest of the movie really uneven. But maybe I should take a leaf out of your book and revisit it; if you prefer it, there must be more to it than I remember!

Avid Reader said...

It’s been forever since I watched this. I never thought about it before, but Helen really is the central character in a lot of ways. I love her cat and mouse scene with the killer. I also had no idea this was a book. I’m curious about it now.

Enbrethiliel said...


I'm glad I gave you some food for thought. =) It's nice to see you again!