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We Don't Care What You Did Last Summer

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 13, 1998

  Movie Critic

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
Jennifer Love Hewitt, left, and Brandy in a lackluster, dumbed-down sequel to a clever movie. (Mandalay Entertainment)

Danny Cannon
Jennifer Love Hewitt;
Freddie Prinze Jr.;
Brandy Norwood;
Mekhi Phifer;
Jennifer Esposito
Running Time:
1 hour, 41 minutes
Extreme violence, profanity and sexual innuendo
I know what they didn't do last summer: figure out how to make a decent sequel to "I Know What You Did Last Summer." What "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" desperately needs is the input of horror-auteur Kevin Williamson, who wrote the original, as well as "Scream," which did produce a satisfying sequel.

"I Still Know" is, unfortunately, more in the dumb and dumber tradition of "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" sequels. Written by Trey Callaway (UPN's "Mercy Point") and directed by Danny Cannon (who misfired with the $70 million bomb "Judge Dredd"), "I Still Know" begins with (and feels like) a bad dream and concludes with an idiotic setup for yet another sequel. In between, it dispenses with the complexity of plot and psychological motivation that made the original intriguing and involving, opting instead for the kind of body count mentality that gave slasher films a bad name in the '80s.

College student Julie James ("Party of Five's" Jennifer Love Hewitt) is a nervous Nellie, and it's no wonder: It's the first anniversary of the brutal murders of several high school pals, and she's not only sleepless in Boston (except in economics class), she's also on edge with fellow survivor and stay-at-home fisherman/boyfriend Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze Jr.). It's hardly surprising that Julie's mental equilibrium is undermined in her apartment by racing shadows and jarring music or, later in a nightclub, by pulsing strobe lights and ghostly apparitions.

How fortunate, then, that Julie and her roommate, Karla ("Moesha" star Brandy), win a radio contest and an all-expenses paid weekend for four in the Bahamas. Brandy takes along her boyfriend, Tyrell (Mekhi Phifer), and after Ray insists he can't get away from work, invites along Will Benson (Matthew Settle), a classmate who clearly has his eyes on Julie.

Arriving at the resort, the four find themselves the only guests. Turns out it's actually the last day of the season and a hurricane is about to blow in (which allows the power to go out, setting up spooky, lightning-lit sets that betray the film's low budget). Worse, the hotel manager (horror vet Jeffrey Combs) is a prissy proprietor who presciently predicts that while the hotel is old, "it'll outlive you, I'm sure." To drive that point home, when Julie decides to amuse the group with a karaoke rendition of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," the lyric scrawl suddenly transforms into the warning that gives the movie its name.

After that, the bodies start piling up, until we get to the obligatory revelation and the inevitable (albeit temporary) resolution. While not defying logic, both defy credulity, particularly given the clever revenge motif that fueled the original film.

What's missing is any chemistry between Hewitt and Brandy, making her big screen debut here as Hewitt did in the first film. Bless the filmmakers for integrating the cast (and recognizing that African Americans are a loyal audience for genre films), but Brandy's romantic relationship with the perpetually horny Phifer seems more about caricature than character, and she really doesn't have as much to work with as Hewitt and, to a lesser degree, Prinze. The larger problem is that the script doesn't allow us to care what happens to anyone during this island getaway. As one character says about the hurricane, "All we can do is batten down and ride it out." Too bad that's true of the movie as well.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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