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Paramount+'s I Know What You Did Last Summer reboot should've been a film

  • "The Amazon series shares little in common with the movies, begging the question of it using established IP for something otherwise unrecognizable that may do more harm to its audience perception in the long run than good," says LaToya Ferguson. "The general I Know What You Did Last Summer premise is still the same: After covering up a hit and run, a group of friends is stalked the following summer by a serial killer who taunts them and picks them off one-by-one...While pilots are tough to get perfect or even right, the I Know What You Did Last Summer pilot ('It’s Thursday') is arguably the strongest argument that this series should have instead been a reboot film. An opening voiceover waxes faux intellectual about not really knowing anyone, spoon-feeding the audience as to what the overall theme of the series is, despite it being a standard theme in slasher fare. This is followed by 40 more minutes encapsulating a 'last summer' flashback that also includes flashbacks within it, thus taking just under an hour to set up a premise that could easily have been set up in 15 minutes or less. On the plus side, the very nature of the series and its genre forces the pilot to actually be a pilot and not have the entire season be one instead, avoiding a recent issue in many recent first streaming seasons. However, it’s still 50 minutes of set-up that’s technically all in service of a twist that one can quite easily figure out if they think about the fact that the series has its lead actress playing twin characters for even a few seconds."


    • I Know What You Did Last Summer is essentially a Euphoria ripoff and a nostalgia grab: "With the upcoming release of another Scream movie and nostalgic IP becoming the de facto lay of the land, there are two schools of thought when it comes to reviving a franchise: Keep the original intent and make fun, or go completely out of left field and do something different," says Kristen Lopez. "In the case of Amazon Prime Video’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, the new serialized version retains little save for the name of the 1997 feature (itself based on Lois Duncan’s novel of the same name) and the generalized plot point that a death takes place. In lieu of a return to urban legend frights, audiences get the streaming equivalent of Euphoria, where our murder-mystery comes with a healthy, vaguely pornographic, dose of teenage sex and drugs."
    • I Know What You Did Last Summer takes the teenage myopia exhibited in previous versions of the story to an extreme: "In each incarnation of I Know What You Did Last Summer since that first feature, the main characters killed somebody, or at least were accessories to murder, and their process of covering up said crime in order to protect their own lives makes them worthy of some measure of punishment, even if that punishment isn’t necessarily quite on the level of being run through with a harpoon," says Daniel Fienberg. "Quibble with his methodology, but the main tormenter is close to the hero of I Know What You Did Last Summer. And the villain? Well, it’s teenage self-absorption. So if anybody wants to know why Duncan’s novel needed another semi-adaptation in 2021, much less one stretched over eight episodes on Amazon, the answer is simple: Teenagers may have been clueless in 1973 and 1997, but they didn’t have Instagram, which makes those retro-adolescents practically paragons of philanthropy in comparison. Amazon’s I Know What You Did Last Summer is only somewhat about Instagram, on a purely practical level, but it takes the myopia exhibited in previous versions of the story to an extreme. To get coarse about it — and this new version is as coarse as walking barefoot through a beach filled with broken glass — the series examines how, when you live somewhere up your own self-obsessed butt, you can cease being able to truly see yourself, much less your closest friends. It also explores whether being tormented by an unseen killer is a valid path to self-actualization. This new take absolutely has an angle all its own, and a justification for retelling this story. Does that mean it’s good? Nah."
    • Who, exactly, is this show for — and who is it trying to scare?: "The book was clearly for teens, as was, to a certain extent, the Nineties movie; both dealt with the toll one bad decision can take and were steeped in their respective eras’ fear of rampaging strangers," says Brenna Ehrlich. "But at a time when school shootings are a regular occurrence — not to mention an increasingly sex-positive time — there’s no fun to be had in watching an adult’s sneering version of modern-day teenagers get murdered over and over. The true horror of this show might be Lois Duncan’s: In the end, we’re left with nothing but a gratuitous shock-fest for 30-year-olds to 'squeal and giggle over.'"
    • The Amazon Prime reboot makes the 1990s slasher flick feel quaint and fuzzy by comparison: "In fact, there’s hardly any need to call it part of the Last Summer franchise," says Stephan Lee. "Sure, a new set of teens get involved in a drunken hit-and-run on their high school graduation night, and they’re terrorized and stalked exactly one year later by someone who knows what they did. But other than those broad strokes, the only thing this iteration owes to any predecessor seems to be the image of threatening messages scribbled in blood or blood-like pigment on mirrors, which arrives within the first scene of the pilot."
    • I Know What You Did Last Summer is campy teen horror at its finest: "The best part about the series? Like its ’80s and ’90s slasher-film predecessors, it’s both over-the-top campy and unsettling to watch if you’re in the right mind-set," says Alexis Burling. "The tropes are well accounted for, too — false alarms, jump scares and plenty of bloodcurdling, Neve Campbell-style screaming. IKWYDLS isn’t prestige television by any means, nor does it break new ground. But it doesn’t have to. It succeeds by taking a tried-and-true formula, adding in some lovely scenery and scantily clad characters, and amping the fright factor up to 10."
    • I Know What You Did Last Summer is propulsive and fun, but manages to deliver the nonsense and jump scares with just enough emotional and psychological realism: "Think of it as a kind of Gossip Girl with gore and credible characters, capable of offering the younger audience at which it is aimed an unexpected series of implicit questions about how well we know ourselves, each other, and what each of us might find ourselves capable of doing if truly tested," says Lucy Mangan. "The whole thing is joyfully addictive, and done with brio and style. Overall, it provides that very particular and vanishingly rare sense of pleasure that comes with knowing you are watching something that is just that bit better than it needs to be."
    • I Know What You Did Last Summer fails its premise: "You know how a lot of slasher movies stop making sense if you think about them for too long?" says Brian Tallerico. "Episodic seasons make that even harder. They’re also not a genre thick with character depth, and the leads in this version of I Know What You Did Last Summer will make one long for the relative nuance of Freddie Prinze Jr. When they’re not inconsistent or repetitive, they’re just boring. Iseman is a talent who feels let down by the material while Brianne Tju has the charisma of a future star, but they’re saddled with the kind of slasher movie cardboard cut-out characters that one grows tired of after 90 minutes, much less an entire season. Only the great Bill Heck seems to find a consistent tone, almost as if he’s visiting from a better show. While I’m not too sure that remaking things that worked before should dominate the market, I’m a fan of horror reboots when they’re done right. I even thought the MTV series riff on Scream was cleverly self-aware, a tone that’s lacking here. This show takes itself deadly seriously so often that it drains the slasher concept of its potential fun. It becomes a drag. Yeah, I know what you did last summer. But I don’t care."

    TOPICS: I Know What You Did Last Summer, Paramount+