Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of I Know What You Did Last Summer
On the 17th of October 1997, Columbia Pictures and Mandalay Entertainment released Jim Gillespie’s I Know What You Did Last Summer. Scream screenplay author Kevin Williamson wrote the script for Lois Duncan’s novel. The movie starred Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr and Ryan Phillippe.
In 1997, the movie was one of the biggest horror movies, being the 3rd highest domestic grossing horror movie, behind Scream (Even though Scream was originally released later in 1996) and Scream 2, with a domestic gross of $72.5 Million. This made it the USA’s 20th highest-grossing movie of the year.
I know What You Did Last Summer four friends Julie James (Hewitt), Helen Shivers (Gellar), Barry Cox (Phillippe) and Ray Bronson (Prinze Jr), who are involved in an accident. This sees a man killed and to save their futures, they decide to dispose of the body.
One year later they return home for the summer having all received a note saying, ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’. The four friends reunite and learn that their lives haven’t gone as planned. This leads to them discussing whether they should come clean about last year or not. Before long, the friends find themselves getting stalked by a mysterious hooded figure, carrying only a fishing hook. They must figure out who the killer is before it is too late.
The story plays out like the typical slasher, by having the group slowly picked off one by one, as they try to figure out who is behind it. It creates suspects along the way, ones that even see the group questioning each other. This does hold back on the blood, which is a way to be different to Scream, while still following the same sort of ideas.
The Legacy of I Know What You Did Last Summer
In the 25 years since the original was made, there have been two sequels. First was ‘I Still Know What You Did Last Summer’. Which takes the survivors of the original to a tropical island to be hunted down by another killer. The second sequel is the strange one ‘I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer’. This one went straight to Video and brings a fresh batch of characters who covered up a murder. Only this time, it is a fully supernatural outing. In 2021 there was a short-lived television series of the same name, that only lasted one season. This is down to mostly negative reviews and failing to get closer to the original source material.
The Slasher Sub-Genre
The Slasher movie sub-genre was on fire during the late 70s and early 80s. The birth of iconic characters including Michael Myres, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kruger fuelled the passion. However, we did get a lot of solo slashers that have amassed a cult following. By the end of the 80s, the sub-genre felt reduced to half-assed sequels to once popular movies. They still had fans, but many of them were not on anybody’s favourite list.
1996 changed things, when Scream came along, breathing fresh life into the sub-genre. Along with I Know What You Did Last Summer, other franchises were born. Urban Legend, and Jack Frost both started a new series before the reboots, remakes or sequels flooded the market in the early 2000s. There will always be a place in the horror community for the slasher sub-genre. As the ‘who dun it’ behind the first movie and cheesy style will always make for a fun popcorn flick.
Lois Duncan Vs. The Films
Lois Duncan was an American author who originally wrote ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ in 1973. The book was intended to be a young adult thriller that deals with the consequences of the action. In the films, the book got turned into a slasher movie. This did increase the book sales upon release, but Lois Duncan wasn’t a fan of the movie’s decision to change the tone of her story. The main reason for this was that her own daughter was murdered in a violent way. She wasn’t happy with the violence attached to her story, especially with the fact the case never got solved in her lifetime.
She is quoted in 1997 with ‘A movie loosely based upon my novel, “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, opened in theatres around the country [I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)]. I was ecstatic until I settled into a theatre seat with my box of popcorn and discovered that Hollywood had turned my teenage suspense story into a slasher film. The setting had been changed from the mountains of New Mexico to a fishing village on the East Coast, so an insane fisherman, who wasn’t in my book, could decapitate my characters with an ice hook. The first thing I did after leaving the theatre was phone our daughter Kerry and warn her not to let the grandchildren see it.’
In the casting stories about the movie. Both Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar auditioned for each other’s roles in the movie. Jennifer Love Hewitt was in the middle of the Party of Five run. Making the step away from TV for her first major film role.
Sarah Michelle Gellar has just become a major star on television before the release of the now iconic role of Buffy Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This was also the first major film of her career, which was quickly followed up with Scream 2. Freddie Prinze Jr. would get his first major role in the movie, where he would find love with Sarah Michelle Gellar. With the pair happily married and living a wonderful life together.
Ryan Phillippe completes the three biggest names in the movie. He had been in a few more movies with the biggest being Crimson Tide. Ryan was recommended by his then-girlfriend Reese Witherspoon for the role of Barry and the rest you would say is history. Ryan would reteam with Sarah Michelle Gellar a couple of years later in the popular Cruel Intentions.
Outside of our core four actors, we do get some familiar faces. First, Johnny Galecki, who is now most famous for his role as Leonard in The Big Bang Theory. He has stepped right out of the TV world like Jennifer Love Hewitt at the time. His character Max has a crush on Julie because of their long-term friendship, in real life, Johnny and Jennifer had been friends for years too. The biggest name in the movie at the time of release was the late Anne Heche. Who in 1997 alone starred in Donnie Brasco, Wag the Dog and Volcano.