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I Know What You Did Last Summer review: The teen horror update hits the mark
Slasher revivals are having a moment. 2021 has seen a new entry in the Candyman franchise, with a new Scream title due early next year. Over on the TV side, we have a Chucky series due this year on Syfy. Joining Chucky is a new adaptation of I Know What You Did Last Summer, heading to Amazon Prime Video this month.
I Know What You Did Last Summer tells a familiar tale of recent high-school grads targeted by a mystery killer for their crimes from the previous summer. But this outing comes with a few twists.
Amazon shared the first three episodes of I Know What You Did Last Summer with Android Authority. Below is our review of the new original series.
You can watch it on Amazon Prime Video starting October 15.
What is I Know What You Did Last Summer about?
Based on both the 1973 novel by Lois Duncan and the 1997 teen slasher classic starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ryan Phillipe, I Know What You Did Last Summer offers a new take on the familiar story.
While driving home from an end-of-school party, a group of high-school seniors strikes and kills a pedestrian. Then, one year later, when they’re all home from school, a cryptic message appears at one of their homes: “I know what you did last summer.”
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Things get messier from there. Suspense builds as the teens try to protect their secret, all the while looking for the identity of the killer who’s now targeting them. Will their crime be exposed? And will they even survive long enough to face justice?
The first four episodes of the eight-episode season will be available all at once on October 15. The remaining four episodes will roll out weekly the following Fridays.
Updating a classic
As the synopsis above makes clear, I Know What You Did Last Summer is playing in a familiar narrative sandbox. The hit and run, the friends with a shared secret, and the avenging mystery killer all appear in the novel and previous film.
But this is very much an update of the story, and a remix of its major themes and plot points. You don’t need to have any knowledge of the source material to enjoy this. But just as importantly, you’ll get plenty out of it even if you think you know what to expect.
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There are some obvious surface changes. The new Hawaiian setting allows for some gorgeous cinematography and local cultural markers, for example. And the series naturally offers an up-to-date portrait of teen life, with everything from social media to diverse sexual orientations — several of the teens are openly queer.
I Know What You Did Last Summer offers a thorough remix of familiar themes.
The big narrative change comes in the identity of the victim and the ensuing killing spree. The teens didn’t hit an anonymous passer-by. They killed one of their classmates. And the real shocker? The victim’s twin sister was in the driver’s seat.
Plenty of twists and shocks follow, and I won’t spoil them here, but suffice it to say, there’s plenty more to this series than finding the killer. We get flashbacks to the night of the accident and cover-up, slowly building up a bigger picture of what led to, well, everything. And in the present day, the teens aren’t the only ones on the chopping block. In every corner are more secrets, betrayals, and crimes that need solving.
I Know What You Did Last Summer review: The verdict
At times it feels like I Know What You Did Last Summer is trying a bit too hard to distance itself from its predecessors.
There’s so much going on that the central hit and run feels buried in other overlapping mysteries. In a mostly successful effort to do something new, the creators of I Know What You Did Last Summer beg the question: why bother tying this to the older film at all?
There’s something to be said for the classic set-up though. A straight remake of the 1997 film would likely underwhelm. And a reactionary update might annoy. The series instead splits the difference. Keeping a good premise but making something new out of it.
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Some of the drama and interpersonal conflicts between the main cast get a little convoluted, with the twin dynamic feeling a bit half-baked. Having said that, there’s something appealing in the sprawling sense that these characters live and breathe in a three-dimensional world. New characters with little connection to the main plot populate the narrative, coming and going in a way that evokes a real small town. An over-eager cop who thinks he’s the hero of his own story is a particularly welcome member of this B-team, adding a quirky sense of humor to the whole thing.
Amazon Prime’s willingness to let this show include drugs, sex, and some gruesome kills also gives the show a welcome, hard edge. If you’re worried about the series being tame to attract a younger audience, rest assured, this one doesn’t hold back. It’s very much a teen narrative but in the grand horror tradition of sneaking into R-rated movies when no one’s looking.
If that sounds like what you’re looking for, I Know What You Did Last Summer delivers the goods.