Thursday, October 14, 2021

I Know What You Did Last Summer, on Amazon Prime

This adaptation of the late Lois Duncan’s YA novel really ought to be called “I Know Who You Did Last Summer.” Maybe “Who Didn’t You Do?” would be more accurate. In interviews, Duncan stated she was “appalled” by the violence of the 1997 film version starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. It is hard to see how she would like this one any better. Those teens, with their sex, drugs, and slasher murders. However, she might be happy to see the notorious hook-wielding killer in the sailor-slicker is absent from the first four episodes of Sara Goodman’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, which premieres tomorrow on Amazon Prime.

Lennon Grant’s friends are celebrating graduation with their usual hedonistic excess, while she finds ways to do what she most enjoys—making her underachieving twin sister Allison feel like dirt. It is all great fun, until she drives off with her besties down a dark, lonely Hawaiian highway. Tragically, she hits someone along the side of the road. In about the only plot point true to Duncan’s novel, they opt to cover-up the incident rather than call the police.

A year later, Grant is back from college in the lower 48 and rather trepidatious about seeing the old gang again. However, someone is eager to see her. This person unknown even left an ominous note—“I know what you did last summer”—scrawled across the mirror in her room. When she tries to warn her friends, their first reaction is denial and then to down-shift into panic when Grant’s stalker starts murdering people.

Frankly, he doesn’t murder enough people, quick enough. The Kevin Williamson-penned film and its two sequels racked up a greater body-count than the first four episodes, in less than half the time. They also came to reasonable resolutions. In contrast, the series is conspicuously dragged-out with angsty padding. Goodman comes up with a twist in the first episode that should be the source of some nifty Hitchcockian suspense, but nothing that sophisticated ever gets going in the episodes provided for review (the first four, out of eight total).

Nor does it help that the focal characters are shallow, self-absorbed, and in most cases morally gross. It almost makes us wonder if we are supposed to root for the slasher. Arguably, the most interesting characters are Grant’s surfer dude-turned responsible restaurant owner father and the chief of police, whom he is sleeping with (nicely played by Bill Heck and Fiona Rene, the show’s standout). Literally, everyone in this series is sleeping with someone—at least one someone. By the rules of 1980s slashers, a lot of people need to die in Goodman’s
IKWYDLS, but she is way behind the pace.

The Hawaiian locales are somewhat interesting to look at, but the casual cruelty and dissolute lifestyles of the 19-year-old characters quickly grows tiresome. It makes the 1997 film look like a masterpiece (which it most certainly was not). Even experienced genre director Craig William Macneill (who helmed pretty good films, like
The Boy and Lizzie) can’t fire up this cynical adaptation during the first two episodes that he helmed.

It is a bit ironic this
I Know What You Did releases so soon after news of a confession in the cold case murder of Duncan’s daughter (which was why the violence of the film so offended her). That is a real-life reality check horror fans should take to heart. They should also skip the slack-paced exploitative smarminess of the rebooted I Know What You Did Last Summer when it starts streaming tomorrow (10/14) on Amazon Prime.