Now, let's make things clear: I have seen many stupid movies in my life. But I Still Know What You Did Last Summer would still count among the stupidest, had I seen twice as many movies in half again as many genres. It's just So Goddamn Dense, in a rarefied way that transcends any other need or expectation; the kind of movie that can function only if the audience is willing to cede it every contrivance and unlikely plot twist simply on faith.

Ah, but I am ahead of myself. The first thing to do is to set the stage: imagine, reader, that it is 1998. The slasher movie is hot again, thanks to Scream; and moreover, it is a living, viable medium, as proved by Scream 2, the most popular horror sequel in many years. The studios, both major and minor, are flailing for any project that might be successful with the teenagers, and so we can hardly blame Columbia for thinking that I Know What You Did Last Summer, their A-list slasher movie from last year, written by shit-hot Screamsmith Kevin Williamson, might be able to support a franchise all by itself. Say what one will about the Hollywood studios, they like to make movies with proven audience appeal; and continuing the story began around Jennifer Love Hewitt, her breasts, and a crazed fisherman with a hook; it sells itself, don't you think?

So no, my dear ones, let us not blame ISKWYDLS for existing. That it would exist was a fait accompli. If we are to blame anyone or anything, the objects of our scorn would best be the obscure screenwriter Trey Callaway and perhaps an uncredited Stephen Gaghan (yes, the future Oscar-winner, though his contribution, if any, to this project , is lost in time), for allowing such a gutturally idiotic story and script to see the light of day. We, none of us, would like to have been tasked with composing a follow-up to I Know..., but having been given that assignment and the promise of a rich paycheck for completing a script, I suppose that everyone reading this would have been able to come up with some rudimentary version of something interesting. Perhaps the first film's heroine, Julie (played now as before by Hewitt), has been driven mad by her experience from the two previous summers. Perhaps she is once again on the edges of a murder spree, and her experiences have equipped her to help in a unique way, though nobody trusts this trauma-driven Cassandra. Perhaps midgets with knives hunt her, all the while singing tunes from Meredith Wilson's The Music Man. I don't know. I just know that I almost don't lack the capacity for making something as relentlessly, unforgivably moronic as what Callaway finally signed his name to.

The merry-go-round of foolishness begins with the title; since this film starts a year after the last one ended, it is rather I Still Know What You Did Two Summers Ago, but let's not step on the marketing people's toes. There are plenty of terrible brain-farts yet to mock. The action of the movie begins in one of the most obvious dream sequences ever, as Julie goes to a priest and confesses to the accidental killing (but not the much more premeditated body-hiding) of Ben Willis (Muse Watson) a year or two ago. The priest kindly says that he knows what she's gone through. Julie is all, wha? and then the priest throws back his hood, and ZOMG it is Ben Willis, and he says "I still know what you did last summer", and then Julie awakes screaming. Not, "awakes suddenly with a tiny gasp of terror", no, she pops awake screaming like a banshee about to be raped in a back alley. In the middle of class. The professor soundly mocks her for this, and the whole class laughs except for one sweet, sensitive guy, who is genuinely concerned about her well-being and takes time to make sure that she's alright as they're standing outside; his name is Will Benson (Matthew Settle). After they have their little heart-to-heart, up comes Ray (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Julie's boyfriend from last time. He's driven all the way up to Massachusetts from North Carolina (14 hours, says Google Maps), just to say that he wuvs Julie, and wants to know if she's coming back to Southport for the Independence Day festivities that weekend (meaning, I guess, that it's summer school? But dialogue seems to contradict that, and... oh, fuck this movie and its wanton contempt for the audience). Anyway, Julie of course doesn't want to, because of what she did for the last two summers, though Ray is curiously thick about this. So he hops right back in his car to make the 840 mile trip back home, without even grabbing a bite to eat or taking a moment to pee.

That night, in her goddamn massive apartment, Julie hears a Mysterious Noise, something that she'll do on a semi-regular basis for the rest of the movie. Quietly getting out of bed and quietly padding around with the kitchen knife she keeps in her nightstand, she moseys all the way across the apartment to her closet (I keep my clothes in my bedroom, incidentally, and I assume you probably do, too. But neither of us are Trey Callaway, nor Julie James), where she makes ready to kill the figure rummaging inside - but wait! It's not Ben Willis, back from his ambiguous death to murder her! It's just Karla (former ubiquitous pop star Brandy, in her big-screen debut), Julie's BFF. They start screaming at each other about things that I just don't care about, for I am busy reflecting upon how desperately unlikely it is that Karla would leave all the lights off if she actually thinks (as she says), that Julie is out of town, and if she thinks that Julie is in town, why the hell does she stalk around her apartment in the dark, knowing that Julie has some major post-traumatic issues going on? (Issues that, apparently, weren't resolved at the end of the last film, like it appeared; but then again, that final scene was a dream sequence, as we've since learned). I promise I'll stop pointing out all the little ways in which the screenplay is completely, mind-rottingly foolish, if for no other reason than to keep this essay roped in under 5000 words. There's just one more, I swear, just a couple scenes to go.

So, Karla drags Julie to a club, where they meet Karla's awful boyfriend Tyrell (Mekhi Phifer), one of the most unpleasant assholes ever to be pitched as an allegedly sympathetic Meat character in all the slasher films that I have ever seen. I do not wish to linger long on Tyrell. What matters more for the plot is that we now learn that Karla is trying to force Julie and Will into a romantic clinch, for reasons that are never satisfactorily explained. The next day, Julie is woken up by another Mysterious Noise, and it turns out to be Karla again. Before Julie can do like I would have, and throttled the life out of her friend for once and for all, the phone rings; it's the local radio station, and they can offer Karla an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas, if she can answer but one question: what is the capital of Brazil? Karla and Julie are both blanked-out, but Julie eventually thinks to look at a bag of coffee beans, which somehow jogs her into whispering "Rio", and Karla shouts, "Rio!" into the phone, and wouldn't you know it, that's the right answer! Hooray for free trips the the Baha-

Okay, so this is the Crowning Moment of Bullshit Idiocy in the whole movie. Rio de Janeiro is not, of course, the capital of Brazil; that would be Brasilia. What I don't understand is what, exactly, the filmmakers hoped to achieve by having the girls win a contest, which sets up the whole entire plot from here on out, by incorrectly answering a question. If we know the correct answer, then we know right at this moment that the whole trip is nothing but a scam, designed by someone to get Julie in prime killing territory. Could this possibly be foreshadowing? It's damn hard to say that it is; we've already met a character who might as well have had "I'm tremendously shady - look out for me with a knife later on!" tattooed on their face, but when this character is revealed to be a killer, there's not even the slightest hint that we were supposed to know already. So foreshadowing is not obvious a word in Callaway's vocabulary. But if we're not meant to know what city is the capital of Brazil, then fuck Trey Callaway for thinking so goddamn little of his audience's intelligence. No matter what's going on, he's playing a dangerous game: in the second case banking everything on the viewer's ignorance, and in the first case setting up a potential suspenseful situation that absolutely demands the rest of the film to be a riveting, crackerjack thriller, playing off our knowledge that something is amiss, or else it will be nothing but a boring waiting game, wondering how long it will be until somebody looks at a globe. If any single ingredient in this delicate alchemy falls flat, the whole movie implodes. Care to guess?

I should be fair, and admit a final possibility: that we're meant to assume that a movie that can't even count up to two summers accurately is actually dense enough for us to notice that the girls got the answer wrong, but assume that the screenwriter just didn't know himself, and promptly ignore the fact. And I'll be honest, I actually did think of that as a possibility for a moment or two. But that kind of incomprehensible, savage idiocy would barely pass muster in an Ed Wood film, and as much hatred as I'd already generated for the movie by this point, I never seriously considered that it might be that stupid.

I grow weary of typing, so I am going to let the rest of the movie, a good hour and change at this point, hang itself. Karla and Julie and Tyrell and Will all go to the Bahamas; Ray follows, having driven from North Carolina to Massachusetts to North Carolina and part of the way back to Massachusetts (all apparently without sleeping), when on this last leg, he and his buddy Dave (John Hawkes, six years before joining The Best Television Ensemble Cast Ever in Deadwood) stumble across a Ben Willis ambush that looks uncomfortably like the same wreck that got things started two summers ago. He's off to find Julie in the Bahamas (I do not know how he can know where in the Bahamas, but whatever; at this point, really, just whatever), while Julie and company check into a giant hotel on the last day before they close down for hurricane season - a hotel that is not open for most of summer is apparently a valid business model, in the Bahamas - with just a skeleton staff to tend to the four guests' needs. People start dying, Julie can't convince anybody that it's Ben, more people die, yada yada yada.

All things considered, ISKWYDLS would be naught but a forgettable horror movie: director Danny Cannon and his crew are wholly proficient with the camera, but nothing more, and the cast (including a bizarre uncredited performance by Jack Black as a doomed pot-selling pool boy) doesn't stare into the lens or knock props over or forget any lines. There are certainly irritating things about the movie that transcend even the normal irritations of a cheaply-made slasher sequel: particularly the tremendous effort put into following Jennifer Love Hewitt's breasts at every moment, making the first film look altogether chaste in that department. Weird, don't you think - that the modern slashers eschew anonymous nobodies who take their tops off, preferring starlets who'll wear tight tops, but that brief display of modesty aside, focus so intently on the starlets chests that the one or two scenes in a normal slasher film where we see any nudity can hardly compare to the fact that Jennifer Love Hewitt's Breasts are a more important character in the movie than Mekhi Phifer or Brandy. Doubt it? Look at the poster. Now imagine that she's given blocking that keeps her moving about, so that they're always jiggling. It's like we have goddamn 11-year-olds directing movies or something.

Still, nothing here is much of anything, making the film's unspectacular $40 million gross seem a touch high, but nothing excessive. No real gore, no real mystery, no real suspense, just a real good chance for a nap. BUT! That screenplay - that stupid, stupid screenplay, with its mind-bogglingly complex plot by which the killers set up their trap, involving I don't know how many delicate contrivances to play out just in exactly the right order (that Ben could accost Ray on the road between North Carolina and Massachusetts seems especially hard to swallow), with its inept characterisations (when asked why she stayed behind during hurricane season, the hotel bartender Nancy snaps, "None of your goddamned business", which Tyrell correctly interprets to mean "man trouble". Come again, please?), with... with everything, from head to tail. It is a tale told by an idiot, who absolutely requires that everyone watching the film be just a great an idiot as himself, else the whole edifice breaks down. I have seen plenty of brain-dead slashers in my day, but few of them could give ISKWYDLS a run for its money - and at least they were made in the '80s, and so could coast at least a little bit on their scuzzy exploitation elements. This film really just has not purpose whatsoever, unless its purpose is to make people like me bored and sad and bitter.

Body Count: 10. I think. Definitely 9, but it's hard to say if Ben Willis really dies this time for sure, or if he plays his Psycho Killer Death Exemption Card. Of course, if that's the case, than the bullshit twist ending which I'm not counting towards the body count would count. So yes, definitely 10. Most of them are pointless padding.

Reviews in this series
I Know What You Did Last Summer (Gillespie, 1997)
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (Cannon, 1998)
I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (White, 2006)