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I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER ($30) is a notable horror entry because this film was released hot on the heels of SCREAM, the movie that totally reinvigorated the much maligned horror genre. Another reason I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER is notable is because screenwriter Kevin Williamson is the man who also penned horror sensation SCREAM. Of course, this is where the similarities between the two films end. SCREAM was an original idea conceived by Williamson, while the screenplay for I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER was based upon the 1973 cult novel by Lois Duncan.

The plot of I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER follows four teenage friends who are celebrating the July forth holiday in the small fishing village that they call home. While driving back from an evening on the beach, they have an automobile accident and strike someone who is walking beside the road. Instead of calling the police and getting into a whole mess of trouble, the four decide to dispose of the corpse. However, when they dump the body into the ocean, they discover that the deceased wasn't quite dead. Now with a potential murder rap hanging over their heads, the four vows to never speak of the incident again. Eventually, the foursome is driven apart by the guilt of their actions, however they find themselves brought back together one year later when someone starts sending them notes declaring "I know what you did last summer." While the notes prove to be unnerving, the appearance of a homicidal manic dressed in a black fisherman's slicker and brandishing a lethal looking hook has them all more than a little worried. Did their unknown victim survive, or does someone else know what they did last summer?

The cast of I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER features Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze Jr., Muse Watson, Bridgette Wilson, Anne Heche and Johnny Galecki. Every member of the cast does a good job with their role, especially Jennifer Love Hewitt who portrays the film's most sympathetic teen. Unfortunately, the story paints the other teens in a rather unsympathetic light, making the audience dispassionate about their potential deaths at the hands (or should I say hook) of a lunatic. Director Jim Gillespie keeps the film well paced, plus he knows how to build tension and keeps the shocks coming at regular intervals. Additionally, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER doesn't take the usual horror movie route; the killings aren't totally predictable and the killer has an actual reason for wanting to slice and dice his teen victims. However, if you don't like the teen characters, you may find yourself cheering for the killer.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has made I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER available on DVD in both wide screen and full screen versions, offered on opposite sides of the disc. My recommendation is to skip the full screen version and go to the terrific looking 16:9 enhanced presentation. With its 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio restored, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER really comes alive on the small screen. The Letterboxed transfer beautifully recreates Denis Crossan's superb looking cinematography. Much of the film was shot at night and the atmospheric lighting is faithfully rendered on this DVD, plus the level of shadow detail is excellent. Daylight (and the other well lit) sequences are sharp and very clearly defined. Color reproduction is first rate, with all of the vivid greens, lush oranges and bright blues being perfectly rendered without a hint of chroma noise. Solid authoring keep digital compression artifacts to a minimum.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has an active mix that takes full advantage of the discrete nature of the format. Sound effects jump out at the viewer at key moments- heightening the scary moments. The track has a fairly open sounding forward soundstage and precise dialogue reproduction. Bass is authoritative, giving the track a solid bottom end. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also provided, as are English, Spanish and French subtitles.

The interactive menus are standard issue, providing the requisite scene selection and setup features. Access to the disc's supplements is also available through the menu system. I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER includes a theatrical trailer, as well as a running audio commentary with director Jim Gillespie and editor Steve Mirkovich. The talk is informative and is well worth a listen for anyone interested in the nuts and bolt of making a horror movie.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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