When people think of Jim Gillespie’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, they usually consider it a solid slasher. It certainly had an engaging lead cast—Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ryan Phillippe—and a script from Scream creator himself, Kevin Williamson. It even spawned an Amazon Prime spinoff series and is being featured as part of a “High School Horror” category on the Criterion Channel.
But that’s not the film this article is about. This is about the 1998 sequel that has a less positive reputation: Danny Cannon’s I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, which brought back Hewitt and Prinze Jr., but not Gillespie and Williamson. A lot of people tend to think of it as a lesser follow-up that is best left forgotten.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of I Still Know, which is even getting a new 4K UHD Blu-ray from Sony. This makes it a good time to look back on the sequel and see if it has ripened with age. First, let’s remind you of the events of both films. I Know featured Hewitt as Julie James, a college student who believed she and her friends had killed fisherman Ben Willis (Muse Watson) and covered it up. That is until Willis turned up alive and stalked them all, seeking revenge.
Ultimately, Julie and her boyfriend, Ray (Prinze Jr.), were the only ones to survive I Know, despite an ending that showed Willis—still not dead—attacking Julie in a college shower room. I Still Know shamelessly uses a piece of dialogue to imply that the previous film’s ending was a dream. It presents us with Julie back in college one year later, still haunted by the guilt over what happened with Willis.
Her trauma even makes trouble in her relationship with Ray. But things appear to be looking up when Julie’s best friend and roommate, Karla (Brandy Norwood), wins a trip to the Bahamas on a radio contest. Happy to put her guilt aside for a weekend, Julie goes on the trip with Karla, her boyfriend, Tyrell (Mekhi Phifer), and classmate Will Benson (Matthew Settle), who is a potential new love interest for Julie.
But when they arrive, things aren’t so perfect. The island where they are staying is about to be hit by a major storm, while someone wearing Willis’ hat and coat begins mowing down victims. Is it Willis himself, back for more revenge, or could it be the mysterious porter Estes (Bill Cobbs)?
Looking back at I Still Know 25 years later, I think it’s fair to say: this movie is no classic. But it is a lot of fun and we were all much too hard on it. I actually prefer it over the original, since it seems more in the vein of over-the-top, cheesy slasher movies. It even features bloody deaths and a Madman-style backstory for Willis.
I Still Know is even endearingly goofy, with moments like the scene where Willis delivers the titular threat to Julie via karaoke machine, right as she’s singing Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” There’s even a part where a character says, “I haven’t seen one goddamn psycho killer,” which seems to prompt Willis to pop out of nowhere and dispatch that poor soul with his trademark hook.
But no I Still Know re-evaluation can go without addressing the major elephant in this movie’s room: the reveal that has made many groan over the years. In the third act, we learn that Will is actually Willis’ son. Not only that, but he’s been hiding in plain sight by using the name “Will Benson,” which sounds like “Will, Ben’s Son.” You either take the movie to task for such a move, or roll with it, and I’m happy to roll with it.
Cannon—whose previous credits include the Sylvester Stallone version of Judge Dredd—did a credible job in directing I Still Know. No matter whether you liked or hated his version of Judge Dredd, you have to admit, he has a great visual eye, which he brings to I Still Know, making it look as good as any Scream film while giving us little time to get bored.
The cast is even decent. Hewitt is likable as ever as Julie, while Norwood and Phifer are great replacements for Gellar and Phillippe. Even horror favorite Jeffrey Combs has an amusing role as an odious hotel manager. The only major offender here is Jack Black—yes, that Jack Black—as a dreadlocked stoner. His schtick is so terrible that it’s no surprise his name is missing from the film’s credits.
Unfortunately, I Still Know received worse reviews than the original on release and was considerably less profitable. The third film—I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer—went straight to video and deservedly received a poorer reception. After the recent Amazon Prime series was cancelled, it seemed like the franchise was dead in its tracks.
At least, until the recent announcement that Do Revenge director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson will be doing a legacy sequel. Although I Still Know hinted at a not too pleasant fate for Julie James, hopefully Robinson will be able to bring back Hewitt, Prinze Jr., and even Watson to stalk again. Let’s hope that she can imbue her new entry with plenty of scares and a sense of fun to make it a franchise worth revisiting. Until then, it is a good time to revisit this underrated slasher and give it another look. You might even find yourself humming Hewitt’s song from I Still Know’s soundtrack, “How Do I Deal,” long after the movie’s over.