Hulu is rolling out a scary slate of horror movies and shows throughout October 2020. Monsterland, Books of Blood, Jordan Peele’s Us, and Child’s Play are just a few of the streaming service’s many offerings. With so many to choose from, we’re going a bit farther back to recommend an underrated (and likely forgotten) horror film that helped to define the late ‘90s.
I Know What You Did Last Summer is a 1997 slasher movie that follows a group of teens — Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar at the start of her Buffy the Vampire Slayer days), Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Barry (Ryan Phillipe) — on their last Fourth of July weekend together before college. On their way back home, they hit a pedestrian with their car. Believing him to be dead, they toss the body into the river to avoid police questioning. Turns out Ben (Muse Watson) wasn’t just an unlucky pedestrian, but a murderer who uses his fisherman’s hook to extract bloody revenge on the teens a year later. The drama!
Beyond the cast of familiar ‘90s stars that includes Anne Heche and The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki, I Know What You Did Last Summer is a horror classic that relies just as much on the themes of guilt and karma as it does on its horror tropes. Its focus on the characters in the aftermath of their actions is an example of how even the closest of friends can unravel and become estranged.
Their strained arguments reveal the cracks in their friendship, which only heightens the teen angst and drama. The decision to get rid of Ben instead of owning up to their actions, in hindsight, may have saved them some pain, fear, and guilt. What’s perhaps most interesting is the acknowledgement that one wrong doesn’t make a right, despite the killer’s attempts to even the score.
The film is more of a slasher than a traditional horror. In lieu of jump scares, director Jim Gillespie builds the tension by baiting the characters and turning them against each other for a while. The killer isn’t simply watching them, he’s taunting them at every turn and it’s the slow burn of it all that truly fuels the adrenaline that keeps the story going to the end. What’s more, I Know What You Did Last Summer is scary enough to warrant a closet check before bed, but its general lack of gore makes it palatable enough for several viewings.
I Know What You Did Last Summer isn’t nearly as popular as Scream, its teen horror predecessor, but it has certainly made its mark on pop culture. The film spawned a plethora of memes, which usually includes the “I know” line that the killer repeats throughout the film. And how can we forget about Hewitt’s famous “What are you waiting for?” yelling scene that became a popular gif.
It was also spoofed in the 2000 horror parody Scary Movie, as well as in a The Simpsons, where it was hilariously reimagined as “I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did.” Iconic.
I Know What You Did Last Summer is a damn gift, with the soapy stylings of 90210 and horror tropes combined. Broody teens, chase sequences, murder, guilt, and regret are all packaged into one rewatchable film. It really doesn’t get any better than that.
I Know What You Did Last Summer is currently streaming on Hulu.