Tag Archives: Sylvain White

Remembering ‘I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer’

There are very few sure things in life: death, taxes, and horror movie sequels. While we might look at unwieldy and sprawling franchises as proof of creative decay, there can be beauty in the constant reinvention of, say, the Halloween or Scream movies. When a concept is broken apart and reworked, it can mutate into something unique. Changing budgets and cast shake-ups allow for new things to emerge. Each entry has the opportunity to be a neat little time capsule filled with weirdness. My favorite example of this is the direct-to-video third installment of the I Know What You Did Last Summer franchise, I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer

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Released in 1997, I Know What You Did Last Summer (abbreviated as Know for the remainder of the piece) struggled to be seen as more than a Scream knockoff. Based on a Lois Duncan novel of the same name, the film is a classic morality tale centering on the supposed murder of a pedestrian. The plot is actually a little convoluted and easy to misremember if it’s been a while: four kids hit a guy and panic. In order to ensure their futures are shiny and happy, they dump him in the ocean and decide not to talk about it ever again. Except a year later, they aren’t happy, and the guy they hit isn’t actually dead. In fact, he’s a murderer named Ben Willis, and he’s out for revenge. The “Fisherman” picks the group off with a cool hook until he’s killed by Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Or is he…

Know closes on a cliffhanger that isn’t resolved in 1998’s I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, even though that film is a direct sequel. Still manages to expand Ben Willis’s legacy by giving him a son who’s also into stalking and murdering. It also expands its cast with some extremely eclectic entries – Brandy, Jack Black, Mekhi Phifer, and Jeffrey Combs – and adds the unique setting of an island resort during a storm. Prinze Jr. and Hewitt reprise their roles, and the characters get a happily ever after, killing both the Fisherman and his newly revealed son. As far as sequels go, it’s a bit formulaic but still enjoyable. It’s definitely what you’d expect from an entry released so close to the original. 

Like Know, Still ends on an ominous (and confusing) cliffhanger, alluding to more heartache for Freddie and Jennifer. And similar to Still, Sylvain White‘s I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer unsurprisingly fails to address said cliffhanger. It’s excusable here because Always is not a direct sequel. None of the original cast returns and the mythos is turned on its head. 

Always focuses on a group of young friends who decide to pull a “cool” prank at their town’s carnival. One of them dresses up like the Fisherman — slicker and hook — and terrorizes everyone. Part of the prank involves someone doing a sick skateboard trick off a building. But instead of landing on a mat, something goes wrong, and he gets impaled on a tractor. The group decides to let the town think an actual madman attacked them with a hook and murdered skateboard kid so that they can have shiny, happy futures. Flash forward a year, and no one is very happy. The setup is essentially the same as Know, except with less clarity and impact. But either way, we end up with the same dilemma — the kids are getting harassed and killed off one by one. 

This ends up leaving us with a big ‘ole mystery, which is not necessarily the strongest feature of the franchise; they’re not generally regarded as wild whodunnits. With Ben Willis dead and Always set nearly a decade later – in landlocked Colorado, of all places – who could possibly be responsible for these grisly murders? Is it one of the core group? Someone upset about skateboard kid’s death? The shady local law enforcement? I hate that I’m about to spoil this film, but I must: the big bad is the literal ghost of Ben Willis, the original Fisherman. It’s as if Ghostface was revealed to be an actual ghost. 

This doesn’t necessarily come out of nowhere, but the dramatic shift changes so much about the story, removing it from reality and re-categorizing it as a supernatural slasher. Once it gets going, it’s not ambiguous, either. This killer is 100% not alive. He has glowing red eyes, disappears into thin air, and oozes black goo. “How is this possible?” you ask. I’m not really sure, but doing some work for the film, it seems like one of the kids was able to locate and purchase the actual murder hook to use in the prank. So I guess it was possessed? In Always, the events of Know and Still are real — the kids have newspaper clippings about the murders. They use this event as the inspiration for their weird prank in hopes of perpetuating the Fisherman legend. So while Always feels miles away from its predecessors — in cast, setting, and subgenre — it’s quietly a very strange continuation of the story.

The Fisherman returning as a vengeful spirit raises more questions than it answers. Is his presence tied to the hook? Was he involved in the skateboard kid’s death? Or was it the death that summoned him? Is he like a genie? Is this secretly a haunted object movie? Was the hook always possessed? The mind reels. 

With all these questions swirling, our current group of hapless young adults must figure out how to escape the murderous ghost that’s got more in common with late-stage Jason Voorhees than Ben Willis. Thankfully, they figure out the magic – and potentially haunted – hook can injure him, so they use it to cause some damage and gain some ground. Then they throw him into a snowblower. Like, they throw the ghost with glowing red eyes that can appear and disappear at will, into a snowblower. He gets all chopped up, and there’s a bunch of that black goo, and then he’s gone. The two survivors dust off their gooey hands and wave the mission-accomplished banner, telling a cop that the killer is definitely gone for good…

Always ends with what is, at this point, a predictable and hilarious staple of the franchise: an out-of-context cliffhanger. While our final girl deals with a blowout, the ghost of Ben Willis approaches, and then!—cut to black. At least this one doesn’t feel tacked on. I mean, ghosts don’t die in snowblowers… everyone knows that. 

The IKWYDLS franchise remains divisive, with its final entry largely dismissed. But for fans of weird sequels, supernatural slashers, and mid-2000s fashions, I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer is a delightful oddity. Here’s hoping it will remain in canon for any future franchise updates. I’m ready to watch Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr. fight some ghosts.