When it comes to ‘90s slasher franchises, there is Scream (1996), and then there are the red-headed step-children that are every other franchise that came in its wake. Though, there is one that is more like a strawberry blonde step-child that stands mildly above the rest, and that’s the I Know What You Did Last Summer series. While nowhere near as successful or long-standing as its Ghostfaced counterpart (despite also being penned by Kevin Williamson), it still managed to achieve an admirable level of success thanks to its atmosphere, setting, and all-star cast that gave way to Sarah Michelle Gellar (Cruel Intentions) and Freddie Prinze Jr. (Summer Catch) beginning as one of Hollywood’s most iconic couples who are still going strong nearly 23 years after initially coupling. Me? I find I Know What You Did Last Summer to be…fine, I suppose. I find it comforting in its nostalgia, and for its North Carolina setting, but I never found it particularly scary or compelling, and its pace is sometimes a real drag. However, I exist in the vast (and “vast” is not an understatement) minority that stands firm in my belief that its sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998), is actually the superior film when it comes to building tension, creating charming, sympathetic characters, and actually being fun. We exist, and we demand to be heard. In fact, apparently, we were heard, as Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is bringing forth a 25th Anniversary home media release with its debut in the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format.
A year after brutal murders that rocked Southport, NC, and left dead multiple people, including teenagers Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Barry Cox (Ryan Philippe), the survivors of the murders, Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze Jr.), struggle to re-adjust to normal life and maintain their relationship in its wake. Julie, having left Southport and now in university in Massachusetts, tries to distance herself from her trauma, while Ray, a laborer in Southport, wants to approach the events head on. When Julie wins a trip to the Bahamas from a radio giveaway, she brings college friends Will Benson (Matthew Settle), Karla Wilson (Brandy), and her boyfriend Tyrell Martin (Mekhi Phifer) with her on the all-expenses paid getaway. As they arrive at the start of storm season and they find themselves isolated with the few remaining hotel staff, they soon find themselves hunted by Ben Willis (Muse Watson), seemingly back from the dead, and having successfully lured Julie to an isolated island, ready to take his revenge.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I Still Know What You Did Last Summer is anything less than silly, plotless, cash grabbing nonsense, but when it comes to nonsense such as that, leaning into it, while also doing your best to make it fun and thrilling is really the least you could do. Is the film scary in the traditional sense? Not particularly, it’s a bog standard slasher that succeeds heavily in the deliciousness of its late-‘90s style, and it’s absolutely absurd humor, both intentional (Jack Black’s dreadlocked stoner hotel employee) and unintentional (the plot) that lends the film a lot of goofy charm that the original didn’t have in its far more serious tone.
Sure, I don’t buy for a second that any of these characters are actually friends in the slightest, at least not in the same way that I believed that Julie, Ray, Barry and Helen were in the first film, but I found a ton of enjoyment in the individual personalities at play in this film, particularly from the standout Brandy, who transitions from Moesha (1996-2001) to the world of slasher horror wonderfully, while still retaining the same lovable charm (though I would maybe argue Karla has more lovability than Moesha since, if you actually watch Moesha, you actually see how awful she can often be.)
When it comes to Sony’s newly issued 4K Blu-ray of the film, fans (as few of us as they are) are in for an absolute treat. The 4K transfer and Dolby Atmos mix of the audio are stunning, particularly for a film many would view as disposable studio fodder. It would be ripe for a lazy transfer, but what we get is a beautiful image that feels like a metamorphosis from the previous transfers of the film on home media and streaming. Perhaps what’s most wild from my recent rewatch of this is seeing in full glory just how rich and textured the look of even a studio slasher sequel in the 1990s could be when shot on film, and how that texture can really outdo even some of the slickest of digital photography of today. Particularly impressive is the film’s moody, atmospheric lighting. An early sequence in a nightclub highlights the film’s wondrous use of HDR in both its black levels and the intense strobing effects (epilepsy warning for those susceptible) on display here. More muted, but no less impressive examples include the arrival to the Bahamas, and the moody natural lighting of the hotel hallways, utilizing a wonderful contrast of natural light and shadows, as well as the scene where Julie finds herself locked inside a tanning bed where the ultraviolet light gives the scene a sickly fluorescent tone to it.
Not to mention the absolutely excellent Dolby Atmos mix at play here. Like before, the nightclub sequence features a particularly excellent showcase of the object-based atmospheric effects of the format, as well as pure subwoofer utilization. As the film draws on, the classically shrieky score from John Frizzell (Josie and the Pussycats) is powerful and cleanly remastered, and as the monsoon tears into the resort in the film’s final act, a wash of rainy terror comes over the track with a wonderfully balanced sense of bassy heartiness and atmospheric surround effects. The only real issue is that during the end credits, the song “Górecki” performed by Lamb (a song I adore) has a strange reverb effect not present in previous iterations of the film. It’s something 99% of people will not notice or care about, but I just thought it would be worth noting. All-in-all, this is a near-perfect A/V transfer for this new 4K release, and it’s a level of effort that I absolutely did not expect from Sony for this title, but am ecstatic to see otherwise.
While the special features offering is pretty paltry to speak of (not surprising), I can at least give Sony some credit for including at least one piece of new content for the release with a new commentary from director Danny Cannon (Judge Dredd). This is a lovely addition to the smattering of featurettes included with the release that actually gives double-dippers reason to even consider spending the extra money for the new release (and given how if you’re buying this film on 4K, you’re probably a fan, there is great worth in a retrospective commentary track). The rest of the special features are spread across both the 4K disc, as well as the included Blu-ray disc (which is simply the same disc released in 2009) and include
- *NEW* Commentary with Director Danny Cannon
- He Still Knows What You Did: An Interview with Muse Watson
- Making-of Featurette
- Music Video: “How Do I Deal” Performed by Jennifer Love Hewitt
- Theatrical Trailer
Listen, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer isn’t going to be winning any awards, and, honestly, I wouldn’t even go so far to call it a “good” film in the traditional sense, but I do think it’s a better-than-average slasher sequel that gets unfairly maligned at the expense of the original film that, frankly, isn’t any better than this one in the absolute least. This isn’t a film that takes itself seriously, though only in a way that provides levity and never wades into parody territory with it. Sony’s 4K Blu-ray, while not stacked with special features (though the new commentary is greatly appreciated), this release is bolstered greatly by a truly wondrous A/V transfer made from the original 35mm camera negative which breathes a rich new life into the film, which was completely unexpected from Sony. For all three people that care (I guess only two if you consider me as one of three), they really couldn’t have done a better job given what my expectations for this were.
Also, the capital of Brazil is Brasilia. Just…learn that.
Available on 4K UHD Blu-ray and digital September 26th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official Sony Pictures I Still Know What You Did Last Summer webpage.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.