Maybe it’s just me, but there’s just something cool about watching scary movies in the middle of the summer. Even better is when you have a scary movie that takes place during the summer months.
In a way, it’s unexpected. Most people seem to associate summer with fun, excitement, freedom, and peace. So when that peace seems to be shattered by a murder, you can imagine the shock that can come from it.
Well, I suppose I have no choice but to imagine it, because I’ve never faced a situation like this.
But what would you do if you were?
Here’s a scenario for you all to ponder. Suppose that one summer, you and your friends are having the time of your lives doing all the things that make summer worthwhile. You go swimming at a pool party, go dancing at a night club, host a clambake at the beach...
...that is if people still do such a thing as a clambake. I am a bit old-fashioned.
Anyway, suppose at some point during your summer of fun, something happens that unexpectedly and abruptly changes everything...such as, oh, I don’t know, accidentally injuring someone on your way to your next destination. What would you do if you were faced with a terrible situation like this? Would you immediately call 911 on your mobile phone and try to save their life? Would you attempt to give them first aid? Or, would you drive off into the distance pretending that what just happened really didn’t happen, and leave the person to die?
For four teenagers in a 1997 film, they opted to take the final decision. And while I’m not intending to quote poet Robert Frost here, they ended up taking the road less travelled by...and that has made all the difference. For that decision ended up having some rather devastating consequences.
But we’ll get to that a little bit later.
Today’s Monday Matinee feature is “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, which was originally released on October 17, 1997. Based on a popular novel written by Lois Duncan, and adapted into a screenplay by Kevin Williamson (who was also responsible for the various “Scream” movies), the film starred Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Freddie Prinze Jr.
TRIVIA: The movie wasn’t the only production that Sarah Michelle and Freddie were involved in. They played Daphne and Freddy respectively in the live-action Scooby-Doo movies. In addition, the couple tied the knot in 2002, where they ended up creating another project, their daughter Charlotte, who was born in September 2009.
Anyway, the movie may have been critically panned by various people, and currently holds a 37% approval rating, but despite this, the film amassed $125 million at the box office. I suppose I can definitely attest to the popularity of this movie just based on the fact that most everyone in my grade eleven class had seen this film in theatres. I think I was the only one who waited until it came out on video.
The film begins as we’re introduced to the four main characters of the film. There’s Barry William Cox (Phillippe), Helen Shivers (Gellar), Julie Nicole Johnson (Hewitt), and Ray Bronson (Prinze Jr.). At the beginning of the film, Helen ends up winning a beauty contest where she is named Miss Croaker (a deliciously ironic pageant title as you’ll see when you watch the film in its entirety). Helen is thrilled to win the title, and she and her three friends decide to hit the town to celebrate her victory. It was supposed to be a perfect end to a perfect night.
But in an instant, the carefree lives of the four change, and things will never be the same. They accidentally runs over a pedestrian in his new car, and the four teens make the assumption that they have killed him. In a panic over the situation (and at a time in which the iPhone had not yet been invented), they make the decision to toss the body in the ocean and drive away.
A whole year passes, and the following summer, Julie arrives back home from college. She hasn’t seen Helen, Ray, or Barry since the accident happened, and she’s tried to forget that the incident last summer ever happened.
It’s just too bad that someone else wants to make her always remember what she and her friends did. In the mail, Julie receives a letter that has just seven chilling words.
“I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER”
Naturally, Julie is freaked out by the whole thing. She wonders if anyone else had gotten the letter. Upon showing Helen the letter, Helen tells Barry, and the three of them decide to find out who it is that appears to be stalking them. Immediately, Barry accuses a man named Max Neurick (Johnny Galecki) of sending the letter, a claim that Max denies. Barry and Max get into a huge fight, with Barry warning Max that he had better keep his mouth shut. At the same time, Julie reconnects with Ray, who holds a job as a dock worker, and Ray attempts to reconcile with Julie, but she just isn’t interested.
Shortly afterwards, things get very crazy. Max ends up getting murdered, and Barry gets run over with his own car following an attack by a raincoat cloaked figure armed with a hook. Although Barry survives the attack, he couldn’t get a good look at the killer. Later, at the hospital, the four friends reunite and Julie mentions that she may know the identity of the person that they accidentally hit that fateful night. She was reading some old newspaper clippings and came across an article on David Egan, whose body had washed up on shore weeks after the accident. They initially come up with a new theory that David’s sister Melissa (Anne Heche) is the one stalking them, but following a meeting with her, they seemingly dismiss that theory after she tells them that her brother had a meeting with someone named Billy Blue just before he died.
But before the four can investigate this development, the stalker strikes again. He breaks into Helen’s room and cuts off her hair while she slept, and later on, Julie discovers Max’s dead body stuffed into the trunk of her car with a bunch of live crabs. Even stranger, when she tries to show Helen and Barry what had happened, she finds that someone had taken the body and crabs out of the trunk while she was gone. This leads to a lot of paranoia within the group, and Barry and Ray even trade a blow or two in the process. Julie decides to take matters into her own hands, and goes and visits Missy again while Barry and Helen vow to protect each other during the Miss Croaker pageant and parade.
On the second visit, Julie manages to get some more information from Missy about David Egan. Missy shows Julie a suicide note that David reportedly wrote, which seemingly matched the same style as the note that Julie had received. Missy explained that David had been feeling depressed since his fiancée, Susie, was killed in a car accident some time earlier, and that he took his own life because he couldn’t cope with the loss. Julie tries to tell Missy that she and her friends were the ones who accidentally hit David that night, but this only causes Missy to react with anger, and she throws Julie out.
So, Missy’s provided Julie with some nice tidbits about David...but are Julie’s conclusions correct? As the film progresses, the action shifts over to the Miss Croaker pageant, where before the night is over, the body count will continue to rise, the truth about what really happened to David Egan will be revealed, and Julie ends up in a fight for her life after stumbling across the truth.
All in all, I find “I Know What You Did Last Summer” to be a movie that could easily be considered mindless fluff. It certainly isn’t a film that would be worthy of an Academy Award, but it is a great film to watch while you’re stuffing your face with Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn.
And, look at it this way. If the film wasn’t so successful, it wouldn’t have spawned a sequel the following year, “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer”. But, you know, I’ve always had a bit of a bone to pick with the sequel title. Should it not have been called “I Know What You Did Two Summers Ago”? Well, unless the sequel is making a reference to the first movie, which did happen the previous summer.
I’m so confused. I think I’ll check my mail. Oh, look, here’s a letter for me.