In case you’ve forgotten, I’m here to remind you that I Know What You Did Last Summer is actually a holiday movie. Not only does the film take place over two July 4th weekends (one year apart), but it’s about as American as apple pie. And this October it celebrates it’s 20th anniversary.
That being said, now seems like the perfect time to explore the film and discuss why it’s such a classic.
First off, let’s look at the cast. Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ryan Phillippe in the 90s (1997 to be exact) were at the peak of the All-American Young Stars. They were simultaneously beautiful and familiar enough to represent someone you probably went to school with.
Their characters in the film are perfect American slasher archetypes – the innocent girl, the prince charming, the sexualized scream queen and the bad boy. And there’s also Johnny Galecki as a weird “friend-zoned and bitter about it” character who appears just often enough to remind you, “oh yeah, he’s in this movie”.
I Know What You Did Last Summer contains some of our favorite American pastimes such as fireworks, parades, urban legends and drunken debauchery. The drunken debauchery unfortunately leads to accidental murder, but, you know. Kids will be kids.
(The movie also contains one of my favorite jump-scares, the “oh, it’s just a coat rack” scare. I cannot fathom how that came up as an idea, but it’s incredibly cheesy and I love it.)
Now, holiday horror is in no way a new or rare concept, however, I Know What You Did Last Summer is one that takes its setting from the holiday, but it’s not carrying a patriotic message or focusing on a killer with a holiday-specific agenda. The dude just wants those reckless teens to pay for the destruction caused by their rowdy celebration.
Perhaps because it’s not as blatantly focused on the holiday as films like Halloween and Black Christmas, you often forget about the Independence Day theme until you watch it. It’s overshadowed by the fashion, the cast, character attitudes, soundtrack, several jump scares, and general slasher theme that make it a perfect time capsule of 90’s American film.
And while the whole daytime parade scene causes me to ask, “why do so many people in this town have the same outfit?” and “why are they wearing it on such a nice day?”, it’s one of the several reminders that the film is not only a classic, but an Independence Day classic. Our stalker slays by the light of fireworks, and kills in the face of celebration. After all, “this is his day”.
If you’re still debating the “classic” status of the film, consider this article about the supposed I Know What You Did Last Summer remake.