Horror films have transformed over the years. We’ve essentially gone from horror films using religion to frighten (The Exorcist, The Omen) to slashers (just about everything in the 80’s), to nothing (the early 90’s void), to post-modern slashers, (Scream, Urban Legends, I Know What You Did Last Summer) to torture (Hostel, The Hills Have Eyes).
With I”ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, we take a short trip back into the slasher genre. And surprisingly, it still looks and fe…ls pretty good. I’ll Always Know is a direct-to-video sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, the Kevin Williamson penned scare-fests that never felt as refreshing as his Scream trilogy, but did their jobs and did them well — for the most part.
Ironically, I’ll Always Know is the best entry in the series, and that’s saying something — especially when the first two films had so much star power attached to them. Stripped down, I’ll Always Know bears no ties to the first two films, but keeps the same mythology, and relocates the action from coastal Carolina to a Colorado ski resort. More on that later.
The plot and characters are secondary. If you’ve seen the first film, or know anything about it — you’ll know what to expect from this one. But you don’t need to see those films to understand this one — a prank goes wrong, someone mistakenly dies, and the people involved decide to keep the secret from the police. A year later, the pranksters are stalked and hooked by “The Fisherman”, one by one.
Outside of the lame opening sequence, which feels very forced and corny — and the re-location of the plot to Colorado — which isn’t known for its abundant fishing waters, and is landlocked the last time I checked — I’ll Always Know moves along at a brisk pace and hits all the slasher checkpoints during its 90 minute running time. While all the slasher clichés are here in force — characters wandering down dark hallways calling out their friends names, going for late night swims when a killer is on the loose, and always maintaining a bitching wardrobe — the plot doesn’t hover long enough to allow the viewer to get bored with any of these clichés.
Another plus is the wannabe cast. While a majority of them are unknowns, they look and act like the big name actors we do know — Brooke Nevin, the heroine, is Brittney Murphy-lite, Ben Easter, the Abercrombie catalog love interest, is a diet Ian Somerhalder, David Paetkau, the ex-boyfriend jock, is Jake Busey’s bastard brother, and Torrey DeVitto, the rock-singer chick, is a poor man’s Rosario Dawson, though just as hot. Despite the familiarity of the cast’s looks, they are all game, and spice up their roles with just enough humor and energy to keep you from rooting for them to be killed.
Director Sylvain White injects some nice visual flair into the proceedings, doing interesting things with lighting and camera movement. He also adds the appropriate amount of gore to the film — a must for a direct-to-video film. White also manages to make a professional looking film that only once or twice shows it’s low-budget roots — but it’s never distracting. One drawback is White’s insistence in using the Tony Scott flash editing gimmick. Very played out and very annoying. Luckily it’s not too overdone. When are people going to learn that horror movies aren’t supposed to look like music videos?!
What struck me as odd is that Kevin Williamson’s characters always talked in a wink-wink, “look at how smart we are” kind of way, which is why the style of his writing wore thin after only a few films and TV shows. While schlock-meister Michael D. Weiss (Crocodile, Octopus) never does much with the script, he keeps it real — and as a result, the characters never become super-annoying. Weiss also takes familiar slasher territory — the whodunit — and transforms it into something more sinister.
Another thing that didn’t sit right with me is the location. Can you tell? Whereas the first two films used their settings to amp up the scares, I’ll Always Know is limited in its atmosphere. Abandoned ski lodges during the summertime just aren’t scary. And in a film genre where spooky atmosphere is a must, I’ll Always Know comes up short. And what the hell is a fisherman doing in Colorado?
The end result is a direct-to-video film that one-ups its predecessors to become the best installment in an otherwise lackluster film franchise. While I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer isn’t in the league with some of the more recent horror movies that are reinventing the genre, it is a fun way to spend 90 minutes when you’re in the mood for some familiar jumps and scares.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer boasts a fine looking image. There is some grain present in darker scenes, but during daylight, it is less noticeable. Image lines are sharp, but can get slightly blurred in long shots. The color palate is sun-drenched and natural, enhancing the video quality.
I’ll Always Know is given a nice sound treatment with a very competent Dolby Digital 5.1 track. All the jump scenes are loud enough to give you a slight shiver down your spine, but they could contain more oomph. Maybe I didn’t have the volume loud enough. Dialogue is always clear, but sounds dubbed in early scenes. The musical score is channeled nicely and envelopes the viewer. All in all it is what you’d expect from a horror film soundtrack. Nothing demo quality, but good enough.
Director Commentary with Sylvain White – White gives a pretty cut and dry commentary, which can be pretty boring at times. Perhaps they should have gotten him some of the cast members to keep him company. White simply explains the action on screen — and even goes as far as spelling out the plot (Come on man, it’s a slasher film!). He does drop a nugget of useful information every once in a while when he reveals that a lot of the early scenes in the film needed some AVR (Addition Voice Recording – AKA – dubbing) from shooting on location at a fair. He also points out some of the decisions he made throughout the film — shooting a party scene in daylight on a farm versus the standard nighttime house party. White also points out the scenes he created as an homage to films he admired.
The Making of I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer – this is your basic “Making Of” featurette with the cast, director, and crew. The cast comes across as a likeable bunch and Sylvain White may become a name you hear more frequently — the guy does have more talent than direct-to-video films deserve. We also learn that stunt coordinator Don Shanks, who plays the Fisherman, played Michael Myers in Halloween 5. All in all, it’s a fun, informative look at the film.
I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much from I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, but I was pleasantly surprised. The cast did a fine job with familiar characters and the direction was ambitious. There’s also just enough gore to keep horror fans happy. The Extra Features aren’t abundant, but they are entertaining and informative and the A/V treatment is solid. You won’t get much out of I’ll Always Know, but you won’t regret watching it either.
Special Features List
- Director Commentary
- The Making of I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer