In the post-“Scream” era, the teens-and-maniacs combo no longer works. “Scream” lampooned and celebrated slasher films so expertly that any subsequent movies are likely to seem quaint and out of it.
Anyway, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” certainly does. It’s hard not to compare it to “Scream,” since it’s also written by Kevin Williamson and since it also asks us to watch a bunch of pretty young things become pretty bloody things.
The trouble starts for the pretty people (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe and Freddie Prinze Jr.) when they accidentally kill a guy, whose body they dump into the ocean and forget about until a year later, when anonymous notes warn them, “I know what you did last summer.”
“I Know What You Did” has a few startling moments, and the theme (how doing the wrong thing can wreck your life) resonates. Some of the dialogue is clever, but the references aren’t as up to the minute as they should be (a “Murder, She Wrote” joke at this late date?), and the characters are generic. The only reason we can tell them apart is that there’s a blond guy and a dark guy, a blond girl and a dark girl.
The dark girl - Hewitt (no relation, by the way) - is an able actor, but Gellar, who is so sharp on “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” is disappointingly blah.
And her character is involved in too many stupid things like entering dark rooms or being terrorized by the guy who keeps returning from the dead. Just the kinds of stupid things, in fact, that “Scream” made fun of.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “I Know What You Did Last Summer” Location: North Division, Spokane Valley Mall, Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls Credits: Directed by Jim Gillespie, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar Running time: 1:40 Rating: R