I Know What You Did Last Summer doesn’t match its cinematic origins – review

I Know What You Did Last Summer doesn’t match its cinematic origins – review
Inspired by the 1997 horror film, this reboot ramps up the gore but executes some questionable plot twists

One of the secrets of the post-Scream slasher movie boom in the Nineties was that the casts did most of the work. I Know What You Did Last Summer, released in 1997, is a perfectly serviceable teen thriller elevated by its star power: Sarah Michelle Gellar as the doomed best friend who refuses to go down without a fight, Ryan Phillippe as an oft-topless brute, Jennifer Love Hewitt as a gutsy, grungy sad sack. Take the charismatic actors away and the film is fine if workmanlike. It’s a lesson its TV reboot fails to take heed of.

The new I Know What You Did… mirrors most of the elements of its predecessor, which itself was a loose adaptation of a Lois Duncan YA bestseller. We are introduced to a group of teenagers at a party. They imbibe all kinds of naughty things and then go for a night drive, where they hit someone with their car and then dump the body. A year later, anonymous notes bearing the warning of the title begin to appear, followed by a spate of killings.

A resolutely charm-free cast – led by Madison Iseman, Ezekiel Goodman and Brianne Tju – are asked to play a collection of Gen-Y cliches: an omnisexual bad girl, her sad twin, a phone-obsessed social media influencer, a “stunning queer king” and a mumbling oddball. Before the twist – which we’ll get to in a second – they feel like dubiously written cast-offs from Euphoria or the Gossip Girl reboot that no one watched. “This fit is not pussy-popping attire,” proclaims one character early on. “Did you get my cereal?” the same character euphemistically asks later. “We need to get you on skis!” cries another, as if they’re a tumble through Urban Dictionary come to life.

Things perk up when the plot kicks in, but in search of richer character complexity – this is an eight-episode drama as opposed to a 90-minute movie, after all – I Know What You Did… rapidly loses sight of itself. The twist here – which involves the identity of the person the kids hit with their car – is so reprehensible that it kiboshes all potential empathy not only with the show’s leads but at least one of their parents too. Without me giving anything away, the twist results in the show being oddly indebted more to an entirely different Sarah Michelle Gellar project – namely her short-lived, post-Buffy TV series Ringer – than the film that also bears its name.

As the series continues – four episodes were supplied to critics – there are a couple of fun moments to be had, with wince-inducing kills and a level of far-fetchedness that is admittedly hilarious. But devoid of a magnetic ensemble and dominated by characters of overwhelming narcissism, it is unwieldy and dispiriting, and acutely unaware of what made the film version so effective.