"I take orders from the Octoboss."

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

I remember seeing I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER when it came out. I believe I enjoyed it for what it was – it had the appropriate ratio of competence to goofiness for a slick studio teen slasher sequel in the post-SCREAM era. I did not know or remember that it made less than the first film did on a bigger budget. Of course, this was 1998. They had not yet run over the home video industry, thrown it in the sea and vowed to never speak of it again, so that was where horror movies would thrive, and it at least made enough to justify a DTV sequel.

Things were different then. Horror was more disreputable, even when it was expensive and starred beautiful people from TV shows. Critics had taken to SCREAM, but of course they were gonna hate the goofily titled sequel to SCREAM’s less show-offy, more traditional cousin. But fuck ‘em. This is a solid slasher sequel. Not in the sense of “this is one of the all time great horror movies,” but in the franchise slasher sense of “we took this format and put some enjoyable spins on it and there are some cool touches and some enjoyably dumb ones so I can rewatch it every once in a while and still enjoy it.” That’s what I wanted, and this delivered.

It’s a new creative team – Kevin Williamson is not involved, having been too busy with TEACHING MRS. TINGLE, Dawson’s Creek, THE FACULTY and HALLOWEEN H20. The screenplay is credited to Trey Callaway, who had been a writer for the cartoon Timon & Pumbaa and since then created the show Mercy Point and wrote for Supernatural and CSI: NY. Early trailers also credited TV writer Stephen Gaghan, who a few years later won an Oscar for writing TRAFFIC and then wrote and directed SYRIANA. The director is Danny Cannon, who we will always know as the director of JUDGE DREDD (1995). More recently he did the reshoots on Dean Devlin’s GEOSTORM. Together this ragtag team continued the story of part 1 survivors Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt, GARFIELD) and Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze Jr., SHE’S ALL THAT).

You may remember that the first film ended with the thought-to-be-dead killer fisherman Ben Willis (Muse Watson, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY) crashing through a shower door to kill Julie. That’s confirmed to have been a nightmare after a similar opening where Julie is in a church confessing her sins and the Father turns out to be the fisherman. What I like about this scene is that she says “I killed a man” and that it was “a terrible accident.” In the first film the guilt was about Ray running over an unknown person, who they believed was dead. By the end they knew he’d actually survived and killed some of their friends for revenge. So the “terrible accident” this time was when this killer fisherman got caught in the rigging, his hand was torn off and he was thrown in the water. I like that she’s not only haunted by the specter of him still coming after her, but over guilt for the way she defended herself.

In the tradition of the ELM STREET movies, Julie wakes from her nightmare screaming in the middle of poli-sci class while in summer school in Boston. Embarrassing. A nice boy named Will (Matthew Settle, OUIJA) runs out and tries to comfort her, but he’s just a friend. She’s still seeing Ray, who comes to drive her home for 4th of July festivities, and grumpily leaves when she says that “some part of me hasn’t healed up enough to go back.”

Dude, it was only a year ago! Your two best friends were horribly murdered! During the exact celebrations you are casually asking her to take part in for a fun time! What a colossal all timer of a bad boyfriend and needer of therapy. I’m sure he would say he doesn’t have to time to not be the absolute worst, because he works on a fishing boat. That’s his answer to everything.

Out of the blue Julie’s roommate and best friend Karla (Brandy, OSMOSIS JONES) gets a call from a radio station and wins a trip for four that weekend to a resort in the Bahamas. Ray is wishy-washy about getting out of work and doesn’t show up, so the four end up being Karla, her boyfriend Tyrell (Mekhi Phifer, CLOCKERS), Julie, and (much to Julie’s discomfort, since he has a crush on her) Will.

But little do they know Ray actually did intend to go. On the way there he came across a car and a body in the road. The body turned out to be a mannequin, and then the fisherman (now with legitimate hook hand) attacked and tried to run him over (he fell down a hill). So he’s in the hospital now. Also he was gonna propose to her. This guy has alot of bad ideas, and even worse luck. Anyway, there is kind of a cool element of suspense to the movie that we know for sure the fisherman is back, and Ray climbs out the window of the hospital, pawns his engagement ring in trade for a gun, and is headed to the Bahamas. If we learned anything from JAWS: THE REVENGE – and we did, we learned many things – one of those things is that a water-based killer with a grudge can and will follow you to the Bahamas for revenge.

One of the first film’s strength was its gloomy fishing town atmosphere. The beauty of the sequel is that it goes in the opposite direction by sending Julie to the sunny Bahamas. So for a while it’s more brightness, fewer blues, more yellows. The one scene in her home town of Southport is actually the best looking footage in the movie, but it’s sunny there too. Then it turns out July 4th is the start of hurricane season on this island, so it switches up to torrential downpour, another change from the first one. She gets to sort of redo the spinning around yelling scene while being blasted with rain.

They also mix it up with a much more bombastic score by John Frizzell (ALIEN: RESURRECTION, TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, LEATHERFACE). Lots of low brass blasts and violin screeches. A little more classical.

I don’t think I had seen this since the theater. My main memory of it was a thing that delighted me at the time: an uncredited, unadvertised Jack Black (THE JACKAL) playing Titus, an obnoxious weed dealer with dreadlocks and an uncomfortable accent. I remembered that his dying words were “It’s all good,” but not that there was a cartoony joke where the fisherman pauses to decide between an ax, a sledgehammer, gardening shears and several other deadly tools that happen to be leaning against a wall. Good stuff.

As they got to the resort I thought, “Wait a minute, isn’t Jeffrey Combs in this too?” Sure enough, he plays the unfriendly manager of the hotel, looking like the asshole from FALLING DOWN. A great addition.

What I did not remember was John Hawkes (SCARY MOVIE [1991], FROM DUSK TILL DAWN) as Ray’s buddy from work, who gets a little bit of dialogue and then hooked by the chin and yanked out a car window, an early kill that’s better than any of them in the first film. We also get bonus Mark Boone Junior. He’s always added value to a movie but he’s just playing the guy at the pawn shop and doesn’t get killed this time. Elvis Presley’s homie Red West also has a part.

One of the things some people point to when criticizing this, since it’s bad for horror movies to be absurd and funny and enjoyable, is the premise that they’ve been given this all expenses paid vacation in a fake contest as part of a revenge scheme. Specifically people make fun of the fact that they’re too slow to realize until late in the movie that their winning answer to the question “What is the capital of Brazil?” was in fact incorrect. I don’t know what to tell you, man… that is funny. That is a good touch. It would make the movie less good, not more good, to remove that joy from it.

Of course, it’s an elaborate and expensive revenge scenario to lure the target and some unrelated friends to an exotic locale. But see, that’s okay, because ridiculous is preferable here. This is a movie, there is a Mekhi Phifer. The explanation is that Ben Willis once worked at the resort, and his wife is buried nearby. But I would’ve accepted “he wanted to make them think they were gonna relax on a sunny beach when really they were gonna get murdered in a hurricane.”

It’s a slasher sequel tradition to add more backstory to the killer, like when we learned about Freddy’s mother Amanda Krueger or his abusive father figure Alice Cooper or his secret daughter Lisa Zane. Here we learn that Ben Willis didn’t just snap and start killing with his daughter’s boyfriend who he blamed for her death in a car accident. No – at that point he had already murdered his wife.

And there’s a funny stretch where they make us think there’s gonna be some voodoo involved in his resurrection, since the hotel porter Estes (Bill Cobbs, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS) steals Julie’s toothbrush and other items for a ritual. But it turns out he knows this evil motherfucker and is trying to do a protection spell to stop him.

I do love that Fisherman is not some copycat like in FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING, it’s just the same guy, like everyone assumes. The other big reveal about Ben Willis is that he has a son. Who supports his current lifestyle. That idea (SPOILER), that awkward nice boy Will is actually an undercover psycho, is not my favorite part. I guess it’s more believable that he somehow reprogrammed the karaoke machine to taunt Julie than that ol’ hook hand did it. And it’s very SCREAM-sequel-like. I suppose you need something other than the soundtrack to mark it as a movie of its time. (By the way, the soundtrack includes songs by Jennifer Love Hewitt and Bijou Phillips, but not Brandy.)

Another fine promotional photo shoot

The sequel has a much bigger body count than the first one (lots of random witnesses bite it), definitely bloodier (Candyman-style hookings), and has some good horror and action ideas: zip-tying the tanning bed closed with Julie inside, Karla trying to walk across a greenhouse roof as the glass cracks like ice, breaking through a locked door with a window to let Karla through because they can see the fisherman behind her. Julie gets to run around more, and carry a knife and an ax. The only two horror missteps I noticed are that they foreshadow Karla using her kickboxing skills on the fisherman but don’t go through with it, and an unfulfilled Chekov’s vicious dobermann (it scares them in the hotel lobby when they first arrive, but I don’t believe it’s ever seen again).

Here’s a weird thing I never noticed until watching these movies back to back. In both of them Julie has a very supportive Black friend who encourages her to get a tan. In the first one her name is Deb (Rasool Jahan, COLD MOUNTAIN) and she says, “Julie, get your white as death, chalky corpse in the car now… you’re going home for the summer and you’re going to get a tan on that pasty pale tail of yours.” And when she drops her off she says, “Remember, sun and fun.” Here Karla encourages Julie to have fun in the sun and, when the storm hits, commands her to get in the tanning bed. Is this some stereotype I wasn’t aware of?

I’ll tell you this – Tyrell as the guy who is constantly horny is definitely a stereotype. Phifer is good in the role and there’s some humor to how annoyed he is to not be able to be alone with his girlfriend (and to be constantly stressed by her traumatized friend), but his character could definitely use more dimension. At least there’s a good joke where Julie is feeling lonely and hears Karla and Tyrell fucking in the next room, but then it cuts to their room and it’s really Karla jumping up and down on the bed excited about how big it is.

I don’t want to be a narc but I have to note that when Ray is driving to go on the trip he and his buddy have an enthusiastic Whitesnake singalong, and he’s really not paying attention to the road. I have to question the character and wisdom of a person who would be that casual about driving less than two years after running over a human being and less than one year after that event caused the tragic murders of two of his close friends. Ray is just not a high quality person is what I’m getting at. But he still seems cooler than in the first one because he has a bunch of stitches in his head and other battle damage and steals a boat at gunpoint to single-handedly navigate through stormy waters and come to Julie’s rescue at the last moment.

Julie may be the only Final(ish) Girl to have a scene where she sings “I Will Survive.” And arguably she does! Except it’s another “oh shit he’s somehow alive and attacking her” cut to credits and she did not return in the DTV sequel, so maybe don’t sing “I Will Survive” in a horror movie. That might be a jinx.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 4th, 2023 at 7:13 am and is filed under Reviews, Horror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer”

  1. The inclusion of Black and Combs is a nice time capsule. Black was by then already a “that guy” actor and Tenacious D already made a bit of a splash in certain alt rock circles, but he was just on the verge of breaking out. The year after, The D would appear in the clip for Foo Fighters’ LEARN TO FLY and Black would star in Beck’s SEXX LAWS clip. Then he would become the scene stealer of HIGH FIDELITY and people suddenly remembered his name.

    Combs was of course already a horror icon at this point, but I think THE FRIGHTENERS and this were pretty much his biggest mainstream exposures, unless you count his STAR TREK roles.

    And man, that TIMON & PUMBAA cartoon was crazy. If you’ve never seen it: It was definitely not like THE LION KING, but one of Disney’s tries to jump on the more zany cartoon bandwagon of the late 90s. Probably their most successful. It was definitely closer to ANIMANIACS or FREAKAZOID than their other shows that were spun off their popular movies.

  2. I saw this film and the first for the first time about 18 months ago. They’re fine. The first is one of those films I pretty much felt like I’d seen through pop cultural osmosis, catching bits here and there etc. There was a little more to it than I thought.

    (“This motherfucker is stalling us!” you’re saying. “I bet he’s really here to talk about TIMON & PUMBAA!” you elucidate. And you’re right!)

    I remember before the TIMON & PUMBAA cartoon aired in the UK there was a VHS TIMON & PUMBAA “Film” where PUMBAA got struck by lightning and lost his memory, and Timon tried to bring him back around by “describing their adventures”, i.e. setting up a bunch of clips, except the clips were full episodes I guess. This was before the glut of Disney DTV films had fully, er, glutted, and I rented it expecting some RETURN OF JAFAR-type shit, but even though I hadn’t seen any of the clips before, I knew I’d been swindled. Wait, was I really disappointed something wasn’t more like RETURN OF JAFAR? Hmm, maybe not.

    I liked the show when it came around though. First two series had some of the most fluid animation ever produced for US TV. Third had some of the most obvious budget cutting I’ve ever seen, they even replaced the Golden-Age style individual episode title cards with the same stock image for each episode. That season had some very weird and funny episodes though.

  3. Ancient Romans

    July 4th, 2023 at 3:40 pm

    This Timon & Pumbaa cartoon sounds awesome!

  4. Franchise Fred

    July 5th, 2023 at 6:59 pm

    Is there a story behind why Ray doesn’t go on the trip? Was Prinze filming something else and had to be written with a mostly parallel story?

  5. Good question, Fred. Since SHE’S ALL THAT came out only 2 months later that could be the culprit. But also it’s just more dramatic that they get separated and has a romantic rival (who’s evil) and has to get to her. So if they were forced into it it was probly better than the more obvious route.

  6. I think Vern’s right, plus he’s now the “hero” and if he were there he’s have to get knocked out or tied up or something because they want to see the women getting stalked and have a few expendable dudes for body count purposes. Easier to just have him show up at the end.

  7. Weird that by sequel #2 the whole gimmick where the killer taunts his victims with their guilty secret is gone. There’s maybe five minutes where JLH knows there’s a killer and no one else will believe her (even though they all know that she actually did survive a killer just one year ago and probably has a pretty good idea what it’s like) but otherwise everyone understands what the deal is pretty quick. It’s a sturdy enough slasher setup, but it feels odd to abandon the central gimmick of the previous one, especially since it’s literally still in the title. Not necessarily bad odd, since it lets us get to the slashings quicker, but still.

    Love that the one time the killer has JLH completely vulnerable, he tries to kill her by… turning her tanning bed up to lethal levels? I think that’s probably a real manufacturing flaw, if you can turn up a product so high it can (slowly) kill someone. But did he forget he had a hook?

    Also, nice to have a couple black people in the cast this time, after the previous one supposedly took place in a North Carolina that makes MIDSOMMAR look like HELL UP IN HARLEM.

  8. That’s a really good point, Subtlety. I don’t think I ever thought about it that way. My first thought is that it’s just a byproduct of the late ’90s approach of hiring name stars for horror movies. If it was the ’80s they wouldn’t have thought the cast was the draw, and would’ve killed them off at the beginning if they brought them back at all. But then again, how could you introduce a new batch of victims – have them also run over (or otherwise wrong) Ben Willis and cover it up? I don’t know how it would work, other than what they came up with for part I’LL ALWAYS.

    As for the dangerous tanning bed, it’s probly from the same company that made the hot tub in HALLOWEEN II.

  9. You’re probably right that unlike most horror movies, they were banking on the hot cast rather than the premise, but that’s pretty unusual for a horror sequel. Obviously it would be a bit uncomfortable for JLH to unintentionally murder someone *else* and then get stalked again by her most recent victim, but for most horror franchises the obvious thing to do would be to just do a loose remake with a new cast, like they more or less did for the third one.

    I think the fact that it’s right there in the title is what gets me hung up. It’d be like making a sequel to WHEN A STRANGER CALLS but she’s not babysitting and nobody calls, it’s just the same killer and they fight while she’s on vacation. Legal, but sort of off-putting to pivot from something very explicitly high-concept to a more standard slasher former.

    Anyway, as far as I’m concerned the REAL sequel is Love Hewitt’s SNL monologue from 1998:

    Muse Watson and Love Hewitt | IMDb

    Love hosting .... and look who appears

  10. My real problem with this movie is the title — technically the events happened two summers ago, which is why my preferred alternate titled is “I Continue To Be Aware of Events Which Occurred Two Years Ago In Which You Were A Participant” (catchier, too).

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