I Know What You Did Last Summer
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the movie contains very strong language and very graphic violence. It is too intense for kids.
What's the story?
Four graduating high-school seniors, couples Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.), and Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Barry (Ryan Phillippe) in a seacoast town are looking forward to graduation and promising young-adult lives as beauty queens and football heroes. But, driving recklessly after a night of drinking and cuddling on the beach, they run over a stranger. Hothead Barry, perceiving their bright tomorrows in jeopardy, has them dump the body in the sea and swears them all to secrecy. Horrifically, the mangled victim, going under, appears to be still alive. A year later college-student Julie gets a ransom-style note reading "I know what you did last summer," which compels her to reunite with her since-estranged friends, who claim ignorance about who could have sent the note and why. Barry suspects it came from a much-disliked schoolmate who had encountered them that grim night, and he tries to intimidate the kid with bullying. But then this suspect turns up murdered himself -- just the opening of a series of stalkings and killings.
Is it any good?
Early in this youth-oriented thriller a group of teenagers tell each other scary "urban legend" stories about maniacs with hooks for hands. As much as parents might prefer kids sit around at night with flashlights, wide-eyed and trembling, reciting tales from the Bible, the Arabian Nights, Twain, Dostoyevski 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've Done Last Summer, the once-close quartet drift 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 bit 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 on slasher movies like this one.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the enduring appeal of horror movies. Why do people, especially teens, love being scared?