Dog Days of Summer Movies: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
Please welcome Mark Blankenship of The Critical Condition to the curator's chair!
Before I get to the plot of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, I need to address the title. You see, on July 4, 1995, Julie Jones (Jennifer Love Hewitt), her boyfriend Ray (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), and two friends who would go on to bigger films were involved in an elaborate hit-and-run accident that they thought killed a man. They were wrong, though, and Undead Guy came back to haunt them on July 4, 1996, killing Julie's accomplished co-stars while wearing a fisherman's rain slicker and brandishing a giant hook. That left Julie and Ray to stare at each other and be in love.
That was the plot of I Know What You Did Last Summer, so based on the title of the sequel, one would assume that it also takes place in the summer of 1996. However, it actually takes place in the summer of 1997, when Julie is taking summer courses at Anonymous U, palling around with Karla (Brandy), ignoring the affections of Will Benson (Matthew Settle), and trying to forget the awful shit she did before she could legally drink. You can imagine her concern, then, when she starts getting messages that someone "still knows what she did last summer."
Only…what she did last summer was survive the Fisherman's Revenge. Anyone who knows about that should either be complimenting her tenacity or wondering how the hell a young woman who never wears comfortable shoes managed to run away from so much danger. If Julie gets a note about last summer, then she ought to say, "That's right, bitch!", high-five Brandy, and go record a music video.
Really, this movie should be called I Still Know What You Did The Summer Before Last or I Still Know What Occurred Two Years Ago Around This Time, but since that's not nearly as sexy on a marquee, I guess I understand why the creative team went with the less accurate title.
Their choice also reflects the overall discipline of the narrative, but if you're in the mood for hilariously bad acting and egregiously wet t-shirts, then you should let that slide.
Enviable Vacation Locale: The plot starts humming when Karla wins a radio contest for a free vacation to Fictional Island, Bahamas. She and Julie are so thrilled to take a last-minute trip for four that they don't consider how odd it is that the radio station had a number that Julie left unlisted, lest any meathookers try to call her. They're also too busy discussing whether Karla will bang her boyfriend Tyrell (Mekhi Phifer) to notice that they gave an incorrect answer to the trivia question that won them the trip. (The capital of Brazil, they said, was Rio, but it's actually Brasilia.)
But why sweat the details? Fictional Island is gorgeous…except for the fact that July 4 is apparently the precise start of the "off-season," which means that terrible hurricanes drench the island for days at a time, forcing everyone to run around in sopping-wet clothes that cling to their toned, toned bodies.
Quality of Beach/Summer Fashions: Those wet threads are hot stuff, but the best fashion statement actually comes from Jack Black in an uncredited cameo as the island stoner. (He's got a major grow house in a pool cabana.) Black rocks a comically phony set of dreadlocks, and I can only imagine that he was prancing around the costume shop with this dead sea sponge on his head, goofily shouting "Jah Love!" when he realized he was needed on set right away. But his loss is comedy's gain.
Resort Activities: Jennifer Esposito plays a bartender who only knows how to make one terrible drink that involves Tabasco sauce and (I think) curacao, so the bar's no good. There's a karaoke machine, but while Julie is belting "I Will Survive," someone manages to change the lyrics on the screen to read, "I Still Know…What You Did Last Summer!" Considering that cheap-ass bar karaoke programs (especially in the '90s) don't come with a quick edit function, this means the mysteriously revived Fisherman of Death has somebody working for him in a Korean production plant. So ixnay on the araoke-kay. (I will give a bonus point to Esposito, who gets to mutter, "Everyone's a fucking singer" while Julie is warbling. Considering that Hewitt has an ill-advised single on the film's soundtrack, this is a nice joke.)
As for activities, that leaves a session in the tanning bed, which Karla suggests to Julie as a way to clear her head. (She's nervous, you see, because several island staffers have been gruesomely murdered.) It works, until FisherKiller locks her in the bed and cranks up the heat. She could cook in there, y'all! Especially since when her friends find her, none of them has the presence of mind to turn the damn roaster off before trying to get her out of it.
Classic Horror Rules: These kids obviously don't listen to Kevin Williamson, who laid out the rules of horror very clearly in Scream (and happened to write I Know What You Did Last Summer.) Tyrell, for instance, is a creature of pure appetite. Even when he's running from death, he talks about how hungry and horny he is, so it's unsurprising (yet awesome) that he catches a hook to the throat while he's talking about getting laid. In fact, everyone who expresses sexual interest in Julie or Karla ends up dead, including Will Benson, who is actually FisherKiller's son. He might have gotten away with his plan to help Daddy kill Julie if he hadn't threatened to rape Julie first.
On the flip side, Ray, who gets sidelined early by a trap that FisherKiller lays on the mainland, is such a good guy that he buys Julie an engagement ring, even though she has been avoiding him for a year. When he survives the attack and realizes he must get to the island to save her, he pawns that ring for a gun, and in movie logic, that means his symbol of virtuous devotion is transformed into a symbol of ass-kicking firepower. Obviously, he gets to live, and Julie gets to use his Firearm of Blessed Matrimony to shoot FisherKiller in the chest. (Let's disregard the ludicrous final sequence that suggests the psycho somehow survives and lives under Julie's bed in the suburban home she eventually buys with Ray.)
Quotes of the Damned:
"Why won't you just. Fucking. Die?"
"I just tried to stab you with a knife, Karla! I hardly feel like dancing!"
Worth the AC? Honestly, yeah. This movie is terribly delightful and delightfully terrible. Come for Brandy's bad acting, and stay for the subplot about the hotel porter who dabbles in voodoo. On a hot summer day, this kind of brain-off, snark-on entertainment can be just as refreshing as whatever Jennifer Esposito is slinging at the bar.
Mark Blankenship runs The Critical Condition (www.thecriticalcondition.com), a website bursting with pop culture criticism and embarrassing enthusiasm for '90s music. He also edits a theatre magazine and tweets @CritCondition. In the summer of 1997, he watched the movie Beautiful Thing ten times.
Tags: bad screenplay no biscuit Brandy Dog Days of Summer Movies Freddie Prinze Jr. It's Log Jack Black Jennifer Esposito Jennifer Love Hewitt Kevin Williamson Mark Blankenship Matthew Settle Mekhi Phifer movies Will Benson