Color, 1998, 100m.
Directed by Danny Cannon
Starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Brandy, Mekhi Pfifer, Matthew Settle, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Jeffrey Combs, Jack Black
Sony (Blu-Ray & DVD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9) / DD5.1

Of all the teen slasher retreads being churned out, I Know What You Did Last Summer deserved a sequel less than any of its colleagues but got one anyway. While no classic by a long shot, I Still Know is an improvement over its predecessor, at least in guilty pleasure terms. Most obviously, the self-absorbed high school jerks from Kevin Williamson’s original hack-and-slash gloss on the Lois Duncan teen novel have mercifully been replaced by more amiable college students. Further, the basic stalk and die premise has been nicely twisted here into a tense (albeit hilariously nonsensical) Ten Little Indians scenario that contains more than its fair share of surprises along the way. Like Paramount’s embarrassed treatment of its Friday the 13th series, Columbia basically threw this one out into theatres and apparently regarded it with little more respect on home video.

Here is the complete, uncut summary of the film as they explain on the video jacket: “Remember Ben Willis? He’s the fisherman who killed the boy who was driving the car when it went off the road in the fatal accident that killed his daughter Sara... he’s the man in the slicker with a hook in his hand ready to exact bloody justice... well, he’s back. It’s hard to forget a man who refuses to die.” Apparently nobody in the marketing department even bothered to watch the movie, but that’s hardly new. So here’s what it’s really about: survivor Julie James (Hewitt, doing a post-trauma routine à la Neve Campbell in Scream 2) is now in college and finds her relationship with high school sweetheart Ray (Prinze, Jr. in a glorified cameo) strained by his refusal to leave their hometown. Meanwhile, her best friend Karla (self-promoting teen ingénue Brandy, making a passable starring big screen debut here) and her boyfriend Tyrell (Dawn of the Dead’s Pfifer) urge Julie to start dating love-struck college boy Will (Settle). When Karla wins a free trip for four to the Bahamas on a radio trivia contest, she brings along Julie, Will, and Tyrell for a carefree vacation. Unfortunately they arrive to see the tourists leaving in anticipation of the start of storm season. Besides, they should know something is wrong when their hotel is managed by Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs. Sure enough, the foursome quickly finds itself shut off from the outside world and fending for their lives on the tropical equivalent of a dark and stormy night.

The real star of this film is visually gifted director Cannon, who redeems himself from the studio butchery performed on Judge Dredd and displays a disarming familiarity with the ins and outs of the horror genre. From the evocative opening sequence to the beautifully sustained creepy atmosphere of the tropical murder trap, Cannon constantly to at least keep the action at a high level of eye candy even when the script fails to deliver. John Frizzell’s eerie, nerve-jangling score (featuring a beautiful theme for Julie) is up to par with John Debney’s work on the first film, and a number of suspense sequences, especially Brandy’s jittery encounter on top of a greenhouse, set this a few notches above the standard screamer hokum. Unfortunately the filmmakers end things on an irritating note with yet another inane “back from the dead” ending that should have been cut, but it’s still a more sincere and substantial effort at a sequel than the cynical Scream 2.

The DVD is generally satisfying, though occasional mild artefacting crops up in a couple of the darkest shots (notably the shots of Julie’s face in the confessional), and the anamorphically enhanced transfer is more colourful and detailed than the film looked in theatres. The Blu-Ray looks better given the usually exacting standards of the studio’s HD transfers once it switched names to Sony, and extras include the standard theatrical trailer (but not the much more interesting psychiatrist teaser, unfortunately), as well as the original I Know trailer (minus the notorious “From the creator of Scream” tag) and a video for Hewitt’s “How Do I Deal?” (so audibly processed one has to question whether Hewitt ever even stepped in front of a microphone).