I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)

NOVEMBER 2, 2023


Since I wasn't a huge fan of the original, I skipped I Still Know What You Did Last Summer in theaters, only seeing it when it came to the then-brand new DVD format (in fact, it might have been the first movie I watched for the first time on the format? Everything else I was getting at the beginning were old faves). I didn't like it, either, and I've only seen it one other time since, but I happened upon it tonight when looking for something I had seen but didn't much care about to provide background noise as I drifted off to sleep, and to my surprise it held my attention! I watched the whole thing!

Now, I'm not saying it's a particularly good movie, and - again - I don't think the first film is good either, so maybe I'm not the best judge here. But unlike the original it's rarely boring, has a reveal that - while laughably goofy - is at least more engaging than the first one's wet fart of a killer unmasked scene since we never met the character, and has a shockingly good cast of supporting characters, making it more to my liking despite its rampant silliness. Nothing in it may be as exciting as Helen's chase scene in the original, but I tend to prefer a movie that's consistently OK throughout over one that has high highs and low lows. Oh and it's raining this time when Jennifer Love Hewitt screams into the sky, so that's another plus.

Also it had been so long since I watched it that I was misremembering plot points about the film's location and how they ended up there. For some reason, in my memory, they won a trip to Rio by naming it as the capital of Brazil, and I thought it was some epic 4D chess on Ben Willis' part to arrange everything around a wrong answer she might have gotten right. But instead she could have said anything (including the right answer) because the trip is to the Bahamas, and our characters certainly aren't smart enough to question why they'd be asked about one geographical location in order to win a trip to another. I also forgot that Bill Cobbs' character is tipped off to the ruse when Julie tells him how they won, since he knows the answer is wrong, and also that the "radio station" calls them, not the other way around. So while there's still some dumb stuff about the whole thing, it's not nearly as stupid as I had built it up in my head to be over the years.

That remaining dumb stuff (spoiler ahead!) mostly revolves around "Will Benson. BEN'S SON!" It's fine to have a second killer, and they thankfully don't cheat - the script goes a bit overboard to paint Will as a dorky wuss, perhaps, but he never acts scared or anything when no one else is around, and the one sort of "what's going on?" look he gives is to Cobbs' character, which makes sense - he's suspicious that Cobbs knows, but the moment plays fine as a "This guy might be after us" kind of deal. But the sheer planning on him and Ben's part, in that he has to befriend Julie for months, hope like hell that her boyfriend Ray doesn't come along so that he can use the ticket, etc - all to help his dad out, despite (as we learn here) the fact that Ben killed his wife (Will's mother) at some point too. You gotta figure he asked at least once "Do we really need to buy four plane tickets and all this other stuff? Why can't we just go kill her in her house?" Then again, the whole first film revolves around Ben inexplicably trying to murder the teens who think they committed the crime he actually committed himself, rather than enjoy get out of jail free card they were inadvertently handing him, so logic and motive aren't strong suits in the ol' Willis family.

But if you look past all the bad plotting, it's actually pretty fun? Again, the cast is stacked - you get Cobbs, Jennifer Esposito, John Hawkes, Mark Boone Junior, Mekhi Pfifer, and the GOAT Jeffrey Combs all popping up and committing 100% to a silly teen slasher, which is awesome. And yes, a young Jack Black as a Rastafarian dude, which is misguided to be sure, but looking back, it's just another example of how Black is always bringing his A game no matter what the role, something that continues to serve him well 25 years later (we've all seen his tireless promotion as Bowser for this year's Mario movie). One thing I DID remember is that Combs only appeared in two scenes (three if you count finding his body - there are a couple of offscreen deaths), but I forgot how much he clearly hated these idiotic American teens flying in for a vacation during their hurricane season. Indeed, more than once I got the impression that the writers and director Danny Cannon were leaning into the idea that Julie wasn't exactly the smartest horror heroine of all time, and it kind of makes the movie work better than you might expect.

It's also fast paced, something even die hard fans of the original can't claim with a straight face. The whole second half of the movie is basically a nonstop chase, as all four of our heroes find dead bodies and spend the rest of the time running around the island trying to get help and/or outrun the killer, who doesn't bother with silly nonsense like cutting hair and leaving crabs in people's trunks. The body count here is eight (up from five) and the movie is even a minute shorter to boot - the math don't lie! Also, in a rare "smart" decision for this script, a hefty chunk has Julie on the run with two potential victims (Esposito's bartender and best friend Brandy), giving those scenes a suspense boost since you know at least one will be a goner, maybe both (while Julie is safe), so every slash of the hook actually could produce a fatality.

I felt bad for Freddie Prinze Jr though, as it almost seems like they added him into the movie at the 11th hour. He only has a single scene with Julie before he goes off to be in his own side adventure of trying to get down to the Bahamas in time. He pals around with John Hawkes, rides a bus, trades his engagement ring (awwww) for a gun... it's all stuff that could be removed without affecting the main story at all, and without much tension since the killer is obviously on the island. Given the backstory that Ben and his family used to live in the area where the resort is, Will could have been someone they met there, and Ray could have come along from the start - the movie would be less silly as a result, and it'd give Freddie P a chance to actually interact with his co-stars. I assume the plotting was revolved around his schedule or something, but if this was their design from the start, it's needlessly damaging.

So I dunno man, I know it's dumber than it needs to be, but I think the film's bad rep has more to do with Kevin Williamson's absence than its actual quality in relation to the first. They're both kind of stupid movies with a killer whose motives make zero sense, but at least this one seems to be trying to have some fun with itself instead of being so dour and serious. Add in the colorful supporting cast, storm-ravaged hotel setting, and more proactive killer, and I have to confess that I think this is the better movie, if only in a "clears the low bar" kind of way. Sorry for being so hard on you over the past 25 (!) years, I Still Know.

What say you?


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