Film Review: I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer

I’m certain the girl on the far left of the poster disappeared completely after the beginning of the film.

In a world where movies are dropped on streaming devices on the same day as their theatrical releases, it feels quaint to watch a movie that was “direct-to-DVD,” a phrase that will continue to make less and less sense to more and more people. However, that’s what I did tonight to finish off the Summer franchise, with 2006’s I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer. I hope if they do a fourth film, they figure out a way to shorten the titles.

Now, compared to the prior film in the franchise, which I argued seemed rather rudderless on the creativity front, honestly, this one actually has a smart premise that pivots the franchise in a new direction. The film is set 10 years removed from the events of the first film, and the events of that film are treated like an urban legend: The Fisherman who seeks revenge on those who keep secrets every Fourth of July. In that way, we can call the Summer franchise the definitive Fourth of July horror franchise, right? Not that there are many films vying for competition.

And the set-up for making it seem like The Fisherman is personally, directly seeking revenge upon our latest group is that Amber (played by Brooke Nevin), her boyfriend, Colby (played by David Paetkau), her friend, Zoe (played by Torrey DeVitto), Roger (played by Seth Packard) and P.J. (played by Clayton Taylor) wanted to play off of the urban legend by scaring everyone at the town carnival in Colorado. Roger dresses up as The Fisherman, with the idea being that he will pretend to cut Colby with his trusty hook, and pretend to kill P.J. P.J. was supposed to fall off a building on his skateboard onto some mattresses, but somebody moved the mattresses and he really ends up dying. As such, the high school pranksters must keep their secret so as to not ruin their lives (similar to the rationale in the first film).

First, I should note, falling off of a building of that size onto a few mattresses probably ain’t going to feel so good, kids, but also, the film never does answer the question of who moved the mattresses. I suppose we are supposed to believe it was The Fisherman? That’s cheating! He’s creating the environment for secrets to then kill people for keeping said secrets. Hmph.

Nonetheless, before I knew they were going a step further with the urban legend idea by making The Fisherman akin to the creature in 2001’s Jeepers Creepers, who comes around at a certain time to wreak havoc on kids and isn’t an actual “person,” I figured the reveal of who The Fisherman was going to be was either the sheriff, who was the father of P.J., or the other deputy, who seemed weird and creepy around Amber. You got me there, filmmakers!

Similar to the first film, after the summer of the secret, the two girls who were friends split up and are bitter about it; the boyfriend is a jerk; and everyone doubts Amber when she starts voicing concern that The Fisherman knows. Once they all are on the same page, including another town-goer who fancies Amber, Lance (played by Ben Easter), she has the idea that all horror fans think about when watching a slasher: Just leave! Get out of there! Instead, in a silly moment that keeps them in the town, Zoe, who is a musician, will apparently have the chance to perform in front of agents from Los Angeles and she doesn’t want to miss it! You can’t pass up on that, even with a serial killer after you! That decision sets up the death of the sheriff, the deputy, Colby and Zoe herself. Womp womp.

So, to back-up, the film is directed by Frenchman Sylvain White. Like the other directors in the franchise, he’s known more for TV directing than feature film directing, again with CSI, and other CBS favorites of mine, such as The Mentalist and Person of Interest. He did dabble in slashers again with Fox’s The Following. The latter was created by Kevin Williamson, who was the screenwriter on the first film in the franchise! Circle of horror, baby.

On the page, we have Michael Weiss writing, who only had one other feature film under his belt prior to this one and would go on to do not much else of note, just more sequels to films nobody probably realized had more sequels.

Between White’s directing, Weiss’ writing and Stephen Katz’s cinematography, the film feels very much born of the post-Saw, mid-2000s in horror era: That digital sheen to the aesthetic, fast cuts to create the “tension,” and that technique of flashing random things before the viewer, like, here’s a bird, a tree, a close-up of the killer, the reaction from the actress, and it’s all in 1.5 seconds. Those three filmmaking styles do not hold up well 16 years later. And whew, how gross is it to say that 2006 was 16 years ago? I digress. But in other words, when you see this film, you can see why it wasn’t theatrically released.

Another aspect that separates this film from the prior two, and definitely situates it in the early 2000s horror scene, is that this one is more bloody and lingers on the gore, as opposed to the previous installments, which obviously were violent, but I don’t think they lingered on the violence in the same way.

In front of the camera, I do gotta give my Canadian boy, Paetkau, a show-out, as he’s one of my favorites on a Canadian show I used to watch, Flashpoint, which started two years after this film. He also popped up in other favorites of mine, such as Smallville and Criminal Minds. He’s one of those faces you’d recognize instantly because he’s dabbled in a little bit of everything.

I don’t know and/or recognize the others who appeared on-screen with him; I suppose the only other note to make would be that DeVitto really is a musician and comes from a musician family, so that was fair casting.

One critic has called this film “dishwater dull.” I don’t know if I would quite go that far, as it was watchable and I did appreciate the attempt at doing a different premise and set-up. At least they tried some originality, even if the execution proves why it’s direct-to-DVD.

If you’re interested in B-level horror and completeness in trying to watch all the offerings in a horror franchise as I am, then sure, give this a chance. If not, then I already know you’re not going out of your way for this one.

These two sitting next to Amber on the right also disappeared from the film after the beginning.

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