Thursday, January 28, 2016

I Watched All Three I Know What You Did Last Summers, So You Don’t Have To

 Don’t ask why.  I miss the 90’s.  And when I say “watch” I should clarify; I have these movies on in the background, like the radio, and then after I’ve “seen” them I sit down and quickly “write” my “observations” for this “blog”.  (That’s a random "Chris Farley" reference to compliment the 90’s theme).
America has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of putting our teens in cinematic jeopardy, ever since The Blob (1958), which featured Steve McQueen in his first role.  Since then we’ve made a whole genre about murdering them in entertaining and creative ways with Jason, Michael Meyers and Freddie Kreuger.  And the tradition extends to today, especially because it dovetails so nicely with the current economic model of obsessively chasing the teen dollar.  Divergent, Maze Runner, and those films about being hungry continue to dominate the box office and are now marketed as action adventures.  But central to all these plots is a society that enjoys murdering teens.  Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods (2012) posed an intriguing hypothesis that we are subconsciously attracted to this genre because we need to sacrifice our children to the Old Ones. I like that idea, it makes just about as much sense to me as a dystopian society that needs to watch 23 kids a year fight to the death on national TV in order to commemorate a failed rebellion.
I’m not ashamed to tell you that I saw both I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) in the theater.  I had a huge crush on Sarah Michelle Gellar, thanks to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I’ve been a fan of the slasher genre ever since it was created by John Carpenter with Halloween in 1978.  I am however ashamed to admit that in the time between 1997 and now I had killed enough brain cells that I didn’t remember who the killer is and both movies were basically new to me.
A quick recap: four teens on their way to college (including Jennifer Love Hewitt, the actual star of the move, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Ryan Phillipe) accidentally hit a guy with their car on the way home from a party.  Worried about their future, they hide the body and try to forget it ever happened.  One year passes and they start getting messages and then killed off, one by one.
Watching from an adult perspective, I found it difficult to have any empathy for these stupid yet attractively photogenic kids.  The biggest flaw of the first movie is these teens are technically guilty, and they’re fighting a threat that they created.  Also, one thing I remember from my first viewing that persisted, I found it very hard to separate Sarah Michelle Gellar from Buffy Summers and I kept wondering why the Slayer was always running away from the killer instead of dispatching him with a quick roundhouse and a throat punch.
You don’t think you’d get tired of hearing Jennifer Love Hewitt scream.  I’m sure there’s some special acting class where you learn how to do that on command, like stage fighting or speaking in iambic pentameter.  Also, Anne Heche was in this movie?  Apparently so.
I Know What You Did Last Summer was rated R but I bet you the remake will be PG-13.  In addition to the dumbing-down of America, we’re making our films less violent, scary and swear-y so we can appeal to a larger segment of that precious teen audience. 
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) AKA More Screaming Teens Emoting, part 2 was more racially diverse with the addition of Brandy and Mekhi Phifer.  The killer follows them to an island resort in the Bahamas, where he eventually kills Jack Black with dreadlocks and the great Jeffrey Combs as the Hotel Manager, which I also didn’t remember.
Part 3, I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006) came out 8 years later with a brand new cast in a direct to video release.  The franchise moves from a small East coast fishing town to a small Colorado ski town, which makes no sense, because what would a killer fisherman with a hook be doing so far inland?
The writers address the problem of teen culpability getting in the way of being chased by a killer with a hook by having them responsible for an accidental death/murder during viral video stunt. But get this, one year later the killer texts the girl “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER” in all caps, instead of leaving a random notes.  Because kids and their cell phones, amirite?
So what did I learn from watching these three movies?  Precious little, I’m afraid.  Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar were breakout stars, which I had already known.  The killer with the hook seemed like a cheap knockoff of Tony Todd’s far superior Candyman (1992), which spawned 2 sequels that you should know by now I’ve already seen.
I hate sequels, but that doesn’t mean I won’t watch them.  There’s a certain comfort and reassurance in knowing what to expect, not having to meet new characters and having the same story told over and over in a never-ending circle like a snake eating its own tail.  But each new sequel dilutes the power and individuality of the first one, until you forget why you enjoyed this movie in the first place and end up in space like Jason X (2001) or Leprechaun 4 (1996).

Or Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996), which I also saw in the theater…


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.