When you think of ’90s slasher movies, I Know What You Did Last Summer is probably one of the first that comes to mind. The 1997 film is credited with launching the careers of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jennifer Love Hewitt, and also with making the slasher genre accessible to more viewers. When I heard a remake was coming, and that it was going to be a TV series, I was genuinely excited to watch it. And I’m so glad I did.
WARNING: While I’m going to avoid giving away too much, this post does contain some spoilers of the 1997 film I Know What You Did Last Summer and the 2021 TV series of the same name.
I Know What You Did Last Summer Plot Mostly Unchanged
As they celebrate their high school graduation, four friends are involved in a hit-and-run accident when their car hits and apparently kills a pedestrian on an isolated roadway.
The underlying plot is essentially the same. Check.
They dispose of the body and vow to keep the incident a secret. A year later, somebody starts sending them letters bearing the warning “I know what you did last summer”.
Like the movie, the seven episode series — which is written and executive produced by Sara Goodman, and also counts horror master James Wan among its team — is based on the 1973 novel of the same name by Lois Duncan. In this adaptation, however, lead actress Madison Iseman (who now has a horror-filled CV thanks to her appearances in Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween and Annabelle Comes Home) plays identical twins Lennon and Alison.
You know these girls are twins from the first episode, but all I’m going to say on the matter is that this is very important.
Original Tropes Recreated, Just Better
Teen drinking, an obnoxious amount of freedom given to kids and the sexualisation of teenagers played by grown-ups also carry over to the TV series. But unlike Scream’s TV attempt, the ‘sexualisation’ isn’t as disgusting, and you accept a lot of what you see as the characters ‘finding themselves’. If you don’t believe teenagers should be allowed to explore their sexuality, this show isn’t for you.
While there are many parallels to the original film, the series is very 2021. Selfie culture and body image take centre stage (there’s a ‘put a finger down’ challenge, one character has an OnlyFans and another participates in mukbang). There’s an abundance of drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm scenes that don’t glorify cutting, the normalisation of queer culture and a reference to a cop as an ‘incel’. And although getting close to being OTT, the I Know What You Did Last Summer TV series somehow avoids being overly cringe.
Interesting, because cringe is what adds to the magic that is the slasher genre.
I almost feel like I Know What You Did Last Summer manages to create what Gossip Girl screenwriter Joshua Safran was trying to achieve with his reboot, just scary.
I Know What You Did Last Summer Is A Slasher, But Redefined
I wouldn’t classify the I Know What You Did Last Summer TV series as a typical slasher. It certainly has slasher elements, and of course the slasher storyline, but this genre-bending show is definitely a lot more.
This show is dark. There’s plotting, deceit, revenge, teen angst, coming of age and romance, in addition to mass murder. I’d go as far as calling it a thriller-teen-drama-romance. There’s also a ton of subtlety in this series, which, again, is not usually synonymous with slashers, but a lot is said with what is not said.
Much of this is in the Lennon and Alison scenes, and those with their dad. I don’t want to spoil it, but we’ve all felt like them at one stage. Iseman does these roles justice (just take a look at this still ffs).
There is, however, plenty of gore, so if you have a weak stomach, you’ll watch a lot of I Know What You Did Last Summer‘s scenes through your fingers.
But there’s no yelling at the TV telling the characters not to do something. I felt respected as a viewer and was genuinely made to question myself. The whodunnit is exceptionally well executed. I was not expecting that ending, but there were signs – I just got too swept up in the drama.
Hell, even up until the last minute it was hard to make peace with who and how they actually dunnit.
A 2021 Slasher For A 2021 Audience
The first episode is a bit too long, but I urge you to stick with it. It becomes very important as the season progresses.
The ending of I Know What You Did Last Summer is a culmination of a bunch of bad decisions, dealing with the consequences of your actions and the agony of living with a lie. Not at all like the 1997 movie, eh?
But it definitely holds a mirror up to us as viewers. These themes are relatable.
Iseman’s final words really tie a neat bow around the seven-episode series that manages to appeal to those who grew up with the movie, those who are graduating high school and absolutely anyone in between.
I Know What You Did Last Summer premieres in Australia today (October 15) on Amazon Prime.