“I know all about ‘accidents,’ and let me give you some advice: when you leave a man for dead, make sure he’s REALLY dead!”–Ben Willis
Ringing into the spooky season of October, I Know What You Did Last Summer was released in 1997. I Know What You Did Last Summer is an American slasher classic written by Kevin Williamson, an iconic writer known for the horror classic, Scream.
The film is loosely based on the 1973 novel of the same title by Lois Duncan and includes inspiration from the urban legend known as “The Hook.” During the film, four young friends make a pact to cover up an accidental murder but team up a year later after they receive letters from a stalker claiming they “know what they did last summer.”
Although the movie initially received mixed reviews, I Know What You Did Last Summer grossed $125 million worldwide from a budget of $17 million and remained number one for a consecutive three weeks.
If anything above grabbed your attention, feel free to watch the film before reading any further. Okay, no more delays, let’s get into I Know What You Did Last Summer.
The Breakdown (Synopsis)
The film opens up with Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her friends Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.), and Barry (Ryan Phillippe) driving along the coast way of the beach during the Fourth of July.
As rambunctious teens do in all horror films, a drunk Barry causes a scene and drops his beer all over Ray, causing him to swerve and hit a mysterious pedestrian on the road.
They all come to a screeching halt and in sheer terror contemplate what to do next. They all exit the vehicle and they see the body laying out in front of the car. They decide Ray should check the man’s pulse since he was the one driving.
Once they realize that the man has no pulse, they start to freak out. Brilliant Barry decides that they should dump his body over in the ocean. Despite backlash from Julie about this being a hit and run, they all make a pact to never speak of this again and dump his body.
Fast forward a year later, and Julie returns home for the summer from college. Julie’s mom hands her a letter that has just her name on it in bold. Curious, Julie opens the letter, which reads “I know what you did last summer!”
Frightened, Julie contemplates what to do and settles on reaching out to Helen. While all four friends have gone their separate ways since senior year, one attack is an attack on all. When visiting Helen, they decide to track down Barry, who then suspects Max is behind all of this, since he is the only other person that saw them that night when he was passing through.
Confronting Max at the docks, he swears that he doesn’t know anything or what they’re talking about. Barry warns Max to stay away from them and on their way out, Julie sees Ray who apparently works as a fisherman now.
Later that night, Max is killed by a figure wearing a rain slicker and carrying a hook. Afterward, Barry finds a picture in his gym locker that states, “I KNOW.” He is then baited by the same figure who steals his car and runs him over, leaving Barry hospitalized.
After doing plenty of research, Julie believes that they ran over a man named David Egan. Visiting his sister, Missy, who explains that the family was devastated by his death and that a friend by the name of Billy Blue stopped by and paid his respects.
Late that night, Helen awakes to her hair being cut and a message that states “SOON” on her mirror. The very next morning, Julie finds Max’s corpse in her trunk full of crabs, but when she shows it to Barry and Helen, there’s nothing there. This led to what is known as the most memorable scene from the film.
Once confronting Ray about the recent events, he claims to have received a letter also. This results in Julie visiting Missy once again, who reveals that David committed suicide out of guilt for the death of his girlfriend, Susie Willis, and shows Julie the supposed note he left behind.
With the handwriting and boldness matching the letter she has received, Julie realizes that this was a death threat, not a suicide note. She finds an article mentioning Susie’s father, Ben Willis, and realizes that is the man they ran over that night, minutes after he avenged his daughter’s death by killing David.
During the next sequence of events, things start to come to light and thus begin a mix of twists and turns as each of the four finds themselves being picked off one-by-one by Ben Willis.
The Trilogy and Series
I Know What You Did Last Summer is the first installment of what is now a trilogy and a revised television series. The sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, was released in 1998 the following year the original film.
While the second installment did not disappoint either, you can’t mess with a classic of course. I did like that the second time around, they added singer and actress Brandy to the cast and actor Mekhi Phifer to spice up the film.
The third film, titled I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, was released in 2006. The last installment, however, wasn’t as pleasing to me considering that the plot was played out at this point and I personally feel like you shouldn’t remix something more than twice anyway (things start to get stale). Overall, I would rate the original film ten hooks out of ten.