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I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/22/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/22/2008

Given the hectic pace of everyday American life, it's hard to do something without someone else seeing it. Furthermore, with camera-phones and 24-hour video surveillance, it's nearly impossible to do anything without someone having footage of it. But, what if you did something wrong, even illegal, and someone saw it. What would they do? Would they take that knowledge to the authorities, or use it against use somehow? I Know What You Did Last Summer begins with how people deal with guilt, and then morphs into a story of what one can do when someone else has witnessed you doing something terribly wrong.

I Know What You Did Last Summer takes place in the small fishing village of Southport, North Carolina. (Birthplace of Screenwriter Kevin Williamson.) The film opens on July 4th, where Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has just been crowned the "Croaker Queen". She then joins her boyfriend Barry (Ryan Phillippe) and her friends, Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Ray (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) for a party on the beach. All four have just graduated from high school and they are looking forward to pursuing their dreams. Following a night of excesses on the beach, the quartet are headed home (with Ray at the wheel of Barry's car), when they strike a man on the road. Seeing that the man is dead, they panic and decide that reporting this to the authorities will ruin their lives. Thus, they decide to dump the body in the ocean. After that, they make a pact to never speak of it again.

The story then leaps ahead one year. Returning home from her freshman year of college, Julie is shocked when she receives a note which reads, "I know what you did last summer". We then learn that Julie and her friends became estranged after the incident, but she now finds Helen, Barry, and Ray so that they can discuss the note. Barry doesn't take it seriously, but Ray and Helen are concerned. Soon, they all receive some kind of warning, and people around them begin to die. Not only must they figure how who is after them, they must learn what this mysterious stranger wants before they are all killed.

The first half of I Know What You Did Last Summer plays very well. The accident is well-staged, and while we can debate about the talent of the four stars of the film, the scenes in which they argue about what to do are fairly intense. Following this, Julie receives her ominous note and the four must momentarily reconcile their differences and try to figure out who is doing this to them. While the movie is never an overbearing morality play, it takes the themes of responsibility and guilt very seriously, and we see how this one moment effected the lives of the four friends.

However, the second half of the film becomes something altogether. I Know What You Did Last Summer goes from being a suspense-thriller, which almost has a Hitchcockian feel to it, to a slasher horror movie. I'm not giving anything away here when it's revealed that the person who is watching the teens is a person in a fisherman's slicker whose weapon of choice is a hook. It's like the hook-handed killer (mentioned in Urban Legend) has suddenly come to life and is stalking these kids. The mystery elements, where Julie is trying to figure out who is after them, basically fall by the wayside as the Fisherman cuts through the cast, killing anyone who gets in his way, whether they are directly related to the story or not. When we (and the characters) finally learn what is going on, it doesn't make much sense, and it makes the first half of the movie feel like a cheat.

It's funny that I cited Urban Legend, as it has a lot in common with I Know What You Did Last Summer. Both films are slickly made and both feature a killer in a decidedly unscary outfit. (Yes, I know that both are meant to be inconspicuous, but they still aren't frightening.) However, Urban Legend never pretends to be anything more than a dumb horror movie. I Know What You Did Last Summer attempts to heap on a morality play and far too many characters and plot twists. The result is a film that begins on a very promising note and ends up all wet. The quality of the films from the post-Scream era wasn't very good, and the fact that I Know What You Did Last Summer remains one of the more watchable entries from that cycle simply makes me sad.

I Know What You Did Last Summer sends you a threatening note on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is quite sharp and clear, showing only a subtle amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors are very good here and the black tones are very rich and true. The colors are never oversaturated either. The picture is well-balanced, as it's never too dark or light. And while the picture has a nice amount detail, it is a bit flat looking at times. The Disc has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.8 Mbps. The track offers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good here, and are often highly detailed, bringing forward sounds which would go unnoticed on a DVD track. But, the surround sound is weak at times. For example, during the pageant scene, the crowd's applause should be louder, but it's barely discernible from the rear speakers. The subwoofer effects work well, especially with the two scenes with fireworks.

The I Know What You Did Last Summer Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Jim Gillespie and Editor Steve Mirkovich. This is a somewhat odd commentary, as Mirkovich essentially interviews Gillespie (keeping in mind that Mirkovich worked on the movie too). Gillespie's comments are very scene specific and he spends most of the time talking about locations and how shots were done. He touches on the story somewhat, but seems to avoid commenting directly on the cast. "Now I Know What You Did Last Summer" (27 minutes) is a making-of featurette which features comments from Gillespie, Writer Kevin Williamson, the producers, and Jennifer Love Hewitt & Anne Heche (but none of the other cast). The piece contains just a couple of behind-the-scenes shots, as most of it is comprised of film clips and the participants sharing anecdotes about the making of the film. Gillespie's short film "Joyride" (10 minutes) is included here and it can be viewed with optional commentary from the director. The extras are rounded out by a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Hush" by Kula Shaker, and the THEATRICAL TRAILER for I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long