This one's too bloody and brutal for kids. Early in this youth-oriented thriller, a group of teenagers tells each other scary "urban legend" stories about maniacs with hooks for hands. As much as parents might prefer that kids sit around at night with flashlights, wide-eyed and trembling, reciting tales from the Bible, the Arabian Nights, Twain, Dostoyevsky, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, young people always seem to go back to the thrill of morbid stuff with the hook-handed maniacs. And this holds true whether they're gathered around campfires in the woods or the cool fire of home video. I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER was a popular hit tapping into that spook-story appeal, with a good-looking cast who had been reigning on popular TV shows of the time. But there's not much under the surface (or even on the surface, for that matter) besides a familiar setup. It derives from a Lois Duncan YA novel of the same title that's been avidly read ever since its publication in 1974, but the bulk of the story deviates.
But what I Know What You Did Last Summer does have is a sort of morality -- insofar as the youths' covering up their misdeed has negative repercussions, and not just the obvious, gory ones. Under the cloud of what they did last summer, the once-close quartet drifts apart. Their suspicions, eventually directed against each other, make them easier targets for the real villain. It might be noted that the burden of guilt gets lightened a little by a surprise plot twist: The road accident had actually interrupted a murder-in-progress, and the victim was doomed anyway. Alfred Hitchcock this isn't, although scriptwriter Kevin Williamson came closer to that lofty ambition with the similarly bloody but dark-humored Scream and its sequels, effective whodunits styled as semi-humorous takeoffs of slasher movies such as this one.