I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER
Director: Jim Gillespie
Year of release: 1997
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 96-101 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both though perhaps fairly rare on blu ray.
Tagline: "If you're going to bury the truth, make sure it stays buried".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: In celebration of finishing high school four teenagers head to the beach at night for a session of drinking and partying. Whilst heading home they accidentally run over a man in the road. In a panic and realising they will be in serious trouble for drunk driving and manslaughter most of the group are in favor of not reporting the crime and getting rid of the body so that it can't be linked to them. Going ahead with this thought they dump the body in the sea and vow never to mention the business again. We pick the story up a year later the following summer where it is soon apparent that someone is aware of their secret as they begin to receive ominous notes and threats. Someone clad in a fisherman's slicker and wielding a hook seems determined to make the kids pay in blood for covering up the accident.
Good points: The killers costume is rather decent and takes advantage of the surroundings of the fishing village. The slicker, popular among those working on the boats enables him to blend in which is used to good effect within the parade scene. The hook also make for an interesting weapon and although not all that original it at least is different from a knife and it ties in well with the urban legend the kids were talking about at the start.
I like the mystery feel that the film has about it and like any good whodunnit style slasher they present us with a number of possibilities as to who the killer could be. Max, Ray, Elsa and Missy are all under suspicion at one time or another. There is also a nice twist/revelation revealed towards the end which keeps things ticking over and reinforces the slasher backbone keeping it in line with the traditional template.
Helen's long chase scene and subsequent death is dramatic and very well done. An exciting part for sure and definitely one of the highlights of the film. The deaths themselves aren't anything to write home about but at least we get a few bodies popping up towards the end to surprise and scare final girl Julie in traditional slasher style.
You can tell this is a high budget production with everything looking tight, stylish and slick from the direction and cinematography point of view. The kids themselves are your typical glamorous bunch, even more so than usual in fact with some big stars among them in Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr and Jenifer Love Hewitt. The fishing village is also pleasing on the eye and is used to good effects with things like the docks and boat coming into play at the end, the crabs in the car boot/trunk and the aforementioned slicker costume. Several things tie in nicely with the small town fishing village surroundings.
There is a bit more effort put into character development than what we see in many other slashers with quite a long time between kills sometimes with more focus put on establishing the characters personalities.
Bad Points: As touched on already the deaths are bland with very little in the way of gore or special effects. It feels very basic in this regard and taking into account the pretty hefty budget you would have thought they would have done more and put a bit more effort in here. I suppose they wanted to keep blood to a minimum in order to obtain a lower age certificate so they could get more people into the cinema to see it and thus make a bigger profit. Still disappointing though.
The odd scene here and there I found to be too convenient or unrealistic. For example it would be unlikely that Helen, Julie and Barry would just happen to run into Ray whilst visiting Max at the docks. Also it was a bit silly I thought that the killer would risk sneaking into Helen's room in full costume just to scare her by cutting her hair while she slept. The risk of being spotted by the father or her just waking up would be too high. Guess he just would have killed her though had she of woken up. Another silly bit was how the gym clerk didn't notice the killer go past his booth, I think he actually went past twice and wasn't noticed. You would have thought he would run out as well once the car crashed into all the boxes outside to see what all the ruckus was about.
Finally it was risky for the killer to clear out all the crabs and body from Julies car. I don't understand why he even bothered to do this as it would only have been necessary if only Julie was being targeted and he wanted to make her look crazy in front of her friends but they were all getting threatened as well so obviously knew something was going on.
I'm not keen on the ending with the killer jumping out on Julie in the showers as it meant that things didn't end with clarity. Obviously we know from the sequel she doesn't die but at the time it left some confusion as to whether she was just dreaming or had really been killed, confusion which I could have done without. I prefer things to be tied up properly at the end with no doubt, uncertainty or questions left unanswered. It reminded me a bit of the Nightmare on Elm Street ending which again I wasn't keen on.
Verdict: A very good slasher which has a kind of old school new school hybrid feel to it both having the feel of Scream about it while at the same time borrowing from older films and sticking pretty close to the conventions of the genre. Good characterisation, location and the Helen chase scene all help it along. Would have been better with more blood and maybe could do with tightening up in a few small areas where things are slightly unrealistic but a very solid effort all the same.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Max: Impaled under the chin with a hook while working in the kitchen of a boat.
2) Barry: Stabbed with a hook in the rafters/balcony of the town hall.
3) Policeman: Hit in the stomach with hook, caught by surprise as the killer posed as a motorist in trouble.
4) Elsa: Can't remember for sure but I think she was stabbed in the neck with the hook.
5) Helen: Slashed with the hook repeatedly beside a stack of tyres in an alleyway near the parade.