Pros: attractive cast
Cons: cliched, bad dialogue, takes itself too seriously
I Know What You Did Last Summer, penned by screenwriter Kevin Williamson, was snapped up in the hopes of duplicating the success of Scream. Generic but slick-looking, with a hot young cast, Summer brought in over $100 million at the box office.
Brainy Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), beauty queen Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), spoiled rich kid Barry (Ryan Phillippe), and fisherman's son Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.) have their whole lives ahead of them. On July 4th, they celebrate their high school graduation and Helen's recent "Croaker Queen" crowning by partying on the beach, telling scary stories, and having sex. On their way back to town, the kids accidentally run over a man crossing the road. Ray was driving, but it's Barry's car, and Barry is very drunk, so they decide not to go to the police, opting instead to dump the body. The man comes to, so they quickly throw him in the water to drown and make a pact never to speak of the events again.
One year later, someone in a fisherman's outfit begins terrorizing the teens. This person knows what they did last summer, and s/he's not about to let them get away with it. The four, who've grown apart in the last year, must work together to find their tormentor before he turns his bloody hook on them.
The cast is attractive. Even though Gellar is stuck wearing a long wig, she looks much better with her short natural hair later on. She gets to parade around in a bikini. Hewitt looks pale and tired for much of the film, a result of her character's guilt, but she wears a lot of tight clothing, and, at one point, nothing but a towel. Interestingly, there's no female nudity, but Phillippe takes his shirt off. This doesn't really have to do with their acting ability, but it's not like the script gives them much to work with. Hewitt and Phillippe in particular spend a lot of time screaming at each other, while Prinze's mouth hangs open, looking alternately vacant and confused.
Williamson's script employs the same slasher cliches he poked fun at in Scream, only this time, they're played straight. The killer slowly and menacingly walks towards his victims, who run for their lives, yet never gain any ground. The villain is able to appear and disappear at will, never leaving the slightest trace of his existence. The police don't believe the kids and refuse to help. The kills are relatively gore-less and unoriginal. Tension and scares are, for the most part, absent, with the exception of one intense chase scene.
There are attempts at self-referential humor (characters mention "Dawson's Beach," a reference to Williamson's Dawson's Creek), along with some mind-numbingly angsty dialogue - "No one gets me the way you do," Ray mopes; Julie responds, "I understand your pain." The main characters are thin stereotypes, and they're really not likable; I mean, they left a man to die and covered it up. The supporting characters exist only to be killed when nothing scary's happened for awhile. The first murder in particular makes no sense, given the killer's motive; s/he kills a dude who had no knowledge of the coverup, and s/he does it while the two are alone, so it's not like the guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I thought the killer's identity and motive were plausible enough, but this just bugged me.
For a film that's not doing anything new, I Know What You Did Last Summer takes itself too seriously. It's glossy and pretty, to be sure, but it's not scary or funny.