Film / I Know What You Did Last Summer

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Some people really don't know how to let things go...

"If you're going to bury the truth, make sure it stays buried."

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) is a horror/slasher film very loosely based on the novel of the same name by Lois Duncan, starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Ryan Phillippe. The screenplay was written by Kevin Williamson, one of the writers of Scream (1996).

The tale starts with a party and the consumption of too much alcohol, as these stories tend to do, during a beach party after Helen Shivers (Gellar) wins the Croaker County Beauty Pageant. On the way home, however, a drunken swerve of the friends' car leads to the death of a fisherman on the side of the road. The four decide to tell no one, and to forget the whole thing, throwing the body into the ocean. But somebody saw, and the next summer, they start to take vengeance, warning the four with an ominous message: I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. Before long, people start dying, killed by a rain-slicker-clad figure wielding a hook...

I Know What You Did Last Summer was followed by two sequels: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) and the straight-to-video I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006). For tropes applying to the original novel, see its own page.


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    I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) 

This movie contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: A minor example. Elsa in the book is an overweight bitter girl who's jealous of Helen's beauty and easy success - she has to work long hours and still lives at home, while Helen gets a cushy job as a weather girl and is able to afford a nice apartment. In the movie Elsa is just as beautiful, and Helen has a failed attempt at becoming an actress and gets reduced to working in the family department store. So Elsa's jealousy and dislike of Helen isn't really explained.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Elsa, Helen's sister, is described as very unattractive throughout the book. In the movie, she's just as pretty as Helen is. Elsa was written as plain looking in the script; the director decided that if Helen is gorgeous, Elsa should be too.
    • Julie has a moment in the book where she notices her mother going grey-haired, and her hands looking very old. None of this is shown in the film, and her mother looks quite youthful.
  • Adaptational Badass: In the book, Julie is knocked out while Ray fights the killer offscreen. In the film, she helps him fight the killer.
  • Asshole Victim: The fine details are up for debate, but this is a slasher film that actually attempts to justify all the various teenagers getting killed; a hit-and-run probably doesn't deserve a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, but it's not the usual innocent batch of campers either. It's then revealed that the man they hit had just committed a murder himself, and didn't die when they dumped the body in the sea.
  • Audible Sharpness: The hook in the both movies. Even when it contacts nothing but air.
  • Badass Longcoat: The fisherman's raincoat.
  • Beauty Contest: Helen wins one at the start of the film.
  • Big Bad: The Fisherman, aka Ben Willis.
  • Big Brother Bully: Gender Flipped but Elsa spends most of her screen time mocking or belittling Helen.
  • Black Best Friend: Julie has a sassy black roommate in college called Deb in the first film. In the second, her also black best friend Karla is a main character.
  • Black Spot: Julie receives a note saying "I know what you did last summer". A similar note being found in David Egan's belongings tips her off that he wasn't the man they hit.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Barry and Helen are the ones who dump the body in the river, and they're the ones who die.
  • Condensation Clue: Or possibly Cendensation Sequel Hook: the writing on the fogged-up shower stall glass at the end of the film, Foreshadowing the second film's title.
  • Dark Secret: The hit and run that starts the plot.
  • Disposing of a Body: The characters did it last summer.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Julie has curly hair in the intro, but it is unkempt after the accident. Notably in the finale segment, it's curly once again.
  • Fallen Princess: Helen appears to be such. She's implied to be a popular girl at school, and wins the local beauty pageant at the start. There's also cheerleading memorabilia in her room. But her plans to make it as an actress in New York fail, she and Barry split up and she's reduced to working in a department store.
  • Fanservice:
    • Jennifer Love Hewitt in that tank top she wears for the final third of the first film. And her wiggling around in the tanning bed in the sequel.
    • Sarah Michelle Gellar also walks around wearing hot pants in the second act.
    • Ryan Phillippe gets a gratuitous Shirtless Scene at the gym.
  • Final Girl: Julie, who's a far more of an obvious Final Girl compared to her book self - she gets an Adaptation Dye-Job to become brunette, is said to be an excellent student, and takes the moral high ground.
  • Genre Savvy: When the girls go to visit the family of the man they killed, Helen says "Jodie Foster tried this and a serial killer answered the door."
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Helen and Elsa, far more so than in the book. Elsa is more obviously the smart sister - in a prominent position at the family department store, more business savvy and she wears glasses. Helen is the pretty sister naturally.
  • Hooks and Crooks: The killer carries a gaffing hook.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: All three films take place around the Fourth of July.
  • In-Name-Only: The original book and the film share only character names and a hit-and-run that sets the plot in motion. Everything else is night-and-day — the Duncan novel is a mystery/drama in which none of the main characters die, while the film is a slasher.
  • Irony: When dumping the body, Barry says to pretend he's a serial killer and they're doing everyone a favour. It turns out he's right.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Used repeatedly (and relentlessly). The most egregious example is the dead body and 400 crabs stowed in the trunk of one character, only to disappear equally suddenly. Not only does the body and crabs disappear within minutes, but the trunk's carpet is also pristine clean.
  • Jerk Jock: Barry, but more so in the book. He was a football player and goes to college on scholarship. In the movie he's only shown at the gym once.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: Julie wrongly accuses Barry of having been the murderer all along.
  • Not Quite Dead: The Fisherman shows signs of movement right before they dump the body. It turns out he lived after all.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Max's body vanishes from the trunk of Julie's car. Although given that she ran the rest of the way to Helen's house, had to explain what happened to the other two and then walk back - it does give the killer some time to move it if he was following Julie from her house. And if Helen's house is further away than we assume from when Julie gets out of the car. The killer however inexplicably appears out of nowhere to kill Helen when she escapes from the department store.
  • Peekaboo Corpse: Helen and Barry on ice.
  • Pick on Someone Your Own Size: Intergender example; the crazed fisherman is obsessed with killing Julie James and friends after they hit him with their car. He got better.
  • Police Are Useless: The inept cop in the first job who dismisses Helen as a hysteric and ends up getting hooked himself.
  • The Reveal: The killer is Ben Willis (the guy the group actually hit) and not David Egan (who they thought they hit, and who Ben actually killed) or someone trying to avenge him.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Fisherman after he's left for dead.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The accident and cover-up symbolise the loss of innocence from childhood to adulthood. The protagonists are teenagers graduating from high school, and the plot takes place after they've spent a year trying to live as adults. Helen notably has become a Fallen Princess, Julie was once a straight-A student whose grades are slipping, and Barry was once the Big Man on Campus that ends up in hospital. The characters lamenting how they can't go back to how their lives were before the accident parallels how they can't become innocent again.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Max, whose death was added in re-shoots, after filmmakers realised they needed to show that the killer posed a threat.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Julie's college roommate Deb.
  • Stranger Behind the Mask: The twist is that David Egan is in fact not the man the teens hit with the car. It's actually the man who murdered him - though this is foreshadowed earlier in the film.
  • Time Skip: "One year later..."
  • Traumatic Haircut: The killer cuts off some of Helen's hair while she's asleep.
  • Villain Ball: The Fisherman sure does pass up a lot of opportunities to kill those teens. Somewhat justified, as his intent is not only to kill them, but to make them squirm and be afraid. Still, Willis' quest for revenge threatens to expose his murder of David Egan, which he would've been clear of completely thanks to the teens. The second movie is arguably worse, where the Fisherman should know better by then not to mess around.


    I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) 

This sequel has examples of:

  • Behind the Black: Why Ben doesn't see Julie waking up, picking up Ray's revolver from the ground and preparing to shoot him throughout the finale. Could be sort of justified, though, since Ben has just killed his son accidentally, so Julie waking up was probably the least of his concerns.
  • Big Bad: The Fisherman.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Julie shoots the Fisherman eight times. With a six-shooter.
  • The Capital of Brazil Is Buenos Aires: Lampshaded and subverted in the movie as a plot point.
  • Complexity Addiction: Instead of simply rehashing the events of the previous film, The Fisherman has his create a fake radio contest just to lure the kids to a remote island.
  • Cousin Oliver: Will is the previously unmentioned son of Ben Willis.
  • Gambit Roulette: The Fisherman's plan involves sending Julie to an island resort full of people and ensuring that she would become friends with his son and win the "contest" to get the trip.
  • Hook Hand: The killer in the sequel has one of these.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    Julie: Just *Gunshot* Fucking *Gunshot* Die!
  • Punny Name: Will Benson, who is the son of the previous killer, Ben Willis. It's even lampshaded.
  • Radio Contest: Julie wins the trip from one. It is eventually as a hoax set up by Will Benson.
  • The Reveal: Will Benson is (obviously) Ben Willis' son.
  • Spicy Latina: Nancy is this merged with Aloof Dark-Haired Girl.
  • The Stinger: Someone is still trying to kill Julie at the end of the film. According to the next film, it's the Fisherman himself. After Julie killed him, he came back as a ghostly entity that looks like a zombie.
  • Token Minority Couple: There's Julie and Ray (white), and Julie is also involved with Will (white). Karla and Tyrell are the Beta Couple, and they're both black.
  • Villain Ball: The Fisherman is worse about messing around with the teens instead of outright killing them, considering that he should know better by now and not to mess around.


    I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006) 

This sequel has examples of:

  • Agony of the Feet: The Fisherman attacks Colby by impaling his foot with his hook while Colby's doing swimming laps. He has to get by the rest of the film with crutches.
  • Artifact Title: The title still refers to "last summer" of the first film, even though those events were multiple summers ago.
  • Big Bad: The Fisherman, the one we've all met before, who's now an undead entity.
  • Continuity Nod: Amber reveals to Lance that she and her friends got the idea for the Fisherman prank from news clippings about the events of two previous movies.
  • Dark Secret: P.J.'s death being a prank gone wrong for Amber and her friend. The Fisherman's motivation has also been changed to return haunt any group of teens who have one.
  • Deadly Prank: Amber and her friends arrange a prank which makes it seem that the Fisherman is attacking them in a carnival, which is supposed to lead to P.J. performing a sick skateboard trick on front of everyone. It fails when P.J. plummets to his death instead.
  • Evil Makes You Monstrous: Ben Willis, aka The Fisherman, was originally a revenge-driven killer who used a hook as his Weapon of Choice. By this film, he's apparently become an undead ghost/living memory still driven to kill.
  • Hooks and Crooks: The Fisherman uses a gaffing hook once again.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: A deadly secret causes problems once again on 4th of July
  • Immune to Bullets: The Fisherman is shot several times (and stabbed once), which just slows him down a bit. Justified because he's one of the undead now.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Instead of landing on a pile of mattresses like he and his friends planned him to, P.J. ends up falling on a tractor pipe, which impales him.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Just as Roger is about to slice his wrists open due to the guilt of getting P.J. killed, The Fisherman lures him into being chased and kills him.
  • In-Name-Only: The film is this to the first two, as besides lacking any of the other characters besides the Fisherman, it shifts into outright supernatural horror.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The Fisherman is some sort of zombie ghost, possibly some kind of Living Memory.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Done when Amber pushes The Fisherman into the spinning blades of a thresher.
    Amber: The secret. Dies. With YOU!
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Fisherman's eyes are showing flashing red twice after The Reveal.
  • The Reveal: The Fisherman is not a copycat, it's Ben Willis himself, who has literally come back from the dead this time.
  • Slashed Throat: Roger is attacked by the Fisherman, and despite his best efforts to fight back, ends up getting his throat cut open. When his body is discovered, it's mistaken for suicide due to his the note he wrote moments before his death, since he was about to perform one.


Alternative Title(s): I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Ill Always Know What You Did Last Summer

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