Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre. Psycho Drive-in is joining in by sharing articles – some classic, some new – celebrating the greatest women in the genre! I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), is a small-town slasher, where a hook-wielding fisherman stalks the teens who left him for dead one year ago. High school sweethearts, Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Party of Five) and Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr., She’s All That) take a life-changing joyride with friends Barry (Ryan Phillipe, Cruel Intentions) and Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Scream 2). Celebrating their high school graduation and college plans, the teens race around dark, windy curves of Southport, North Carolina and strike a man with their car. Though the man is still alive, the teens drop the corpse in the water on July 4, 1997. As the group is all-White, they’re not worried about getting arrested or shot by the cops, but a hit and run ticket could endanger their student loans. Barry makes the group swear that they will never say a word. But the man they left for dead isn’t dead, and one year later, he’s out to kill them, one by one. Kevin Williamson (Dawson’s Creek) wrote the I Know screenplay before writing the iconic metaslasher, Scream (Wes Craven, 1996). I Know has that Williamson touch, with the serial killer slashing teens in a sleepy town in North Carolina, just 30 miles from the set of his popular television series, Dawson’s Creek (1998). Before the teens crash their car, the film opens to a dark-haired young man, chugging liquor and flipping a silver coin on the edge of a cliff at Dawson’s Beach (Well-played, Kevin). The man appears troubled as if flipping the coin to determine whether he should take his own life. Before we see his decision, the camera pans to the firework-filled sky and the grunge song, “Summer Breeze” plays by Type O Negative. In addition to blood, gore, and suspense, the film has a great 90’s soundtrack with music from Korn, The Offspring, Our Lady Peace, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and more. The casting is Party of Five (1994) meets Cruel Intentions (1999) making this film 90’s as fuck. Our Final Girl, Julie James worked with the Scream’s Final Girl, Sidney (Neve Campbell) on Party of Five. And if that’s not 90’s enough, Julie’s BFF Helen is played by Sarah Michelle Gellar of Scream 2, who later stars in Cruel Intentions with her I Know boyfriend, Ryan Phillipe. Gellar is best known for her ass-kicking feminist role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997), but she takes on a very different role in I Know. As Helen, the beauty queen of Southport, Gellar plays the opposite of a feminist, caring more about appearances and boyfriends than Final Girl, Julie. While it’s tough to watch feminist badass, Gellar play a daft cheerleader, at least the film lets her kick real ass, unlike the fake G-rated “violence” in Buffy. I Know What You Did Last Summer has brutal kills, witty one-liners, and an amazing Final Girl, Julie James. We see Helen on stage, winning beauty pageant title, Croaker Queen (hello, foreshadowing), as Barry, Ray, and Julie look on. Crowned Helen looks like Carrie of the same name slasher, moments before getting drenched in pig’s blood. As Helen waves to the crowd, Final Girl, Julie James winces at the sexist competition. Unlike other slasher girls, the Final Girl is a badass feminist who subverts gender roles, providing commentary on the rampant sexism and chauvinism around her. As father of horror, Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm St.) says, “Slashers are not about the victims but the survivors and their virtues.” While some see a serial-killing fisherman going after teens as sexist, they miss the message that only feminist badasses survive these slashers, while gender-role conforming girls get hacked to death. Barry, the obvious, soon-to-be-dead-douchebag cheers on his girlfriend which warrants a lecture from Julie. “I’m on sexist overload already, kill the commentary,” Julie pleads, looking like a scantily-clad Sidney Prescott (Scream) with brown bangs and judgmental stares. The statement reveals Julie’s feminist nature and foreshadows Barry’s death. As Barry is the one making sexist commentary, Julie’s, “kill the commentary” line sets the stage for Barry’s future death. Unlike brunettes, Julie and Ray, Helen and Barry don’t stand a chance as sexually active blondes who conform to gender roles. As we know from the rules of Final Girl theory, only the feminists survive (Clover, Men, Women, and Chainsaws). Julie James reveals herself to be the Final Girl from the start as she has brown hair, fights sexism, and turns away advances of boys. Instead of participating in the sexist beauty pageant, Julie watches from the rafters, literally above the ritual. After the pageant, the teens travel to Dawson’s Beach to celebrate the end of high school. Julie, Ray, Barry, and Helen sit around a crackling fire at Dawson’s Beach, taking turns telling the tale of “The Hook.” I Know is based on the same name novel, based on this urban legend, “The Hook.” Through the telling of the urban legend, the characters reveal their true nature and foreshadow the brutal violence to come. Helen listens, wearing Barry’s letterman jacket with the number 97, a nod to the year and her role as someone’s girlfriend, devoid of her own identity. Ray, the Final Girl’s boyfriend, begins the tale, but he is passive and sweet, allowing d-bag, Barry to interrupt and complete the story. The urban legend from the 1950’s is about a man with a hook for a hand attacking a young couple in a car. The couple parks the car at night and begins to make out, but the young man leaves the girl alone to piss in the woods. Reports of an escaped, psychotic, serial killer play from the car radio and the girl becomes frightened as she hears a scraping noise from the car roof. Privileging her own life over her boyfriend’s, the girl drives off, unaware that the scratching was her boyfriend’s dangling feet. The killer has hung the boyfriend, tying the rope to the car. As the girlfriend drives away, the rope snaps her boyfriend’s neck, dropping his bloody corpse on her windshield. If that tale sounds familiar, you might have seen it in slashers, He Knows You’re Alone (1980), Final Exam (1981), Campfire Tales (1997), Urban Legend (1998), or Lover’s Lane (2000). The interpretation of “The Hook” as a cautionary tale is not lost on Final Girl, Julie. “It’s a cautionary tale to prevent premarital sex,” Julie declares, “The hook is a phallic symbol for castration.” We get to see Williamson’s metahorror wit here, as Julie explicates the literary significance of the urban legend, which is usually relegated to horror film trivia websites and DVD commentary. Julie explains the Freudian interpretation, that posits the tale as a moral upholder that interrupts sexual experimentation of the young couple. Like many mommy-issue serial killers, Jason, Freddy, and Norman, Hookman lacks sexuality, dressed androgynously in a cape, hat, and hook. Julie’s knowledge of philosophy, psychology and, horror itself positions her as the Final Girl, meaning she will ultimately kill the killer. Julie is just as brilliant as later Scream FG, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). Although Scream came out later, I Know was written first, so Williamson created Julie years before Sidney. Unlike Sidney and most Final Girls who are modestly dressed and chaste, Julie James wears a pushup bra, crop tops, and a ton of makeup. And unlike Sidney, she takes no convincing to sleep with her boyfriend, telling Ray that they may never see each other again. Though having sex breaks the rules of horror as a sin factor, Williamson is in the driver’s seat which means his Final Girls can do whatever the fuck they want (as long as they’re feminists). Julie understands the message behind “The Hook” but doesn’t have faith that she and Ray will last when they go off to college. Gel-haired, 90’s sweetheart Ray pleads with Julie that their long-distance relationship will work. Dressed in a 90’s oversized sweater and puppy-dog face, Ray doesn’t seem to stand a chance with his more intelligent girlfriend. When emotions don’t convince Julie of their future as a couple, he drops a statistic that high school sweethearts are more likely to stay together than any other type of couple. Julie stands on the beach, her brown hair blowing in the wind, and tells Ray, “Cite your sources.” Ray, who either made up the statistic or can’t remember where it’s from, loses his credibility with Julie, foreshadowing their future break up. Before tragedy strikes, Julie is already emotionally unavailable, seemingly allergic to intimacy and commitment, showing herself to be a true Final Girl who doesn’t need a man in her life. The group gets back on the road for the iconic scene where Barry turns on death metal, spills alcohol, and sticks his head out the sunroof to scream, “WOOHOO!” Dressed in white, an ironic choice for such a sexist asshole, Barry distracts Ray’s driving and the car strikes a pedestrian. Barry jumps out, red blood tainting his virginal white sweater as he shouts, “Jesus Christ, my fucking car!” The rest of the gang joins him, standing in the road, their faces frozen in horror. Julie spots a bloody rubber boot in the dark night and the friends realize it wasn’t a deer they hit. They just killed someone. Julie’s on damage control, as her friend Max drives by, and she manages to convince him to leave before he sees the seemingly dead man. Barry leads the group argument on not involving the cops as there’s alcohol in his car and the cops won’t believe it’s an accident. Despite their White privilege, Barry easily convinces the teens to stay quiet, especially when Julie hears her student loans could be compromised with a hit and run ticket. In an ironic statement, Barry shouts at Julie, “Use your brains! We’re fucked!” While Julie has been the only one using her brain up until now, she changes her mind at the thought of losing her college scholarship. Julie’s face changes from concern to guilt as if to say, “Oh, shit FAFSA. Never mind morality, let’s dump this bitch.” Just as the group dumps the man’s corpse on the dock, he jumps back to life for one last scare. As the injured man grabs Helen’s crown, her symbol of White privilege and high school royalty, Barry pushes the man into the water, burying him alive. Barry makes everyone take the secret to their graves, another harbinger of the death to come. The group makes the pact, overcome by guilt and shock. They climb back into the car knowing their lives will never be the same. Though I Know was not the first film to use the trope of “oops my friends and I killed someone” it has been seen many times in popular culture. The trope of collective wrongdoing, the guilt of accidental murder is seen in shows like Pretty Little Liars (2010), Scandal (2012), How to Get Away with Murder (2014) and Quantico (2015). Each time, this trope explicates the quandary among friends who know they could save a life but choose to stay quiet as law enforcement is anything but just. While action and other genres pretend cops might help, horror faces the reality that police will only bring more death and devastation. Pulling away from her boyfriend after tragedy strikes, Julie proves herself to be a true FG, too damaged for a real relationship. Much like Scream’s Sidney Prescott, Julie’s only solace in the world is her independence. Julie is in shock for taking part in a man’s murder and from Barry nearly strangling her to death so she would agree to his oath. Julie is Sidney, as they are both depressed, withdrawn, brooding, and suffering from PTSD. Williamson created Julie James and Sidney Prescott around the same time, so perhaps he saw them as one character. Keeping the pact not to tell anyone, Julie returns home from college a year later, to a very concerned mom. Her mother approaches her troubled daughter and asks, “Are you on drugs?” Julie isn’t high but she doesn’t have another explanation for the bags under her eyes, the hypervigilance, and other PTSD symptoms. Like Sidney, she withdraws from everyone, not letting anyone in, including her boyfriend and mother. But unlike Sidney, Julie doesn’t get harassing phone calls from a cell phone. Julie finds a letter simply written in black marker, “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.” Julie drops the note and runs out to find the other members of the group. She’s surprised to find Helen dropped out of college in New York and now works in the family store. The idea that tragedy could stop someone from attaining higher education is astounding to Julie. It’s just PTSD, Julie’s still going to do her homework. Julie takes Helen to see Barry to find out if he’s been threatened too. Barry immediately shifts the blame to Julie’s friend, Max, as he was the sole witness of the events that night. But did Max see what really happened? Determined to find the truth, the three friends visit Max at the fish market where he works. Though Max looks innocent as fuck, Barry alphas out and threatens him with an ice pick. Julie runs into her estranged boyfriend, Ray, looking mighty fine in his tank top and gelled hair. He smiles that famous Freddie Prinze Jr. grin and immediately tries to win Julie back. Relationship? Commitment? Opening up to another person? Run, bitch! Julie’s a Final Girl, so she’s not about to take her PTSD out another person. She literally runs away from her relationship, as Max gets hacked to death and thrown on ice. The killer is a fisherman in a small fishing town, wearing the same outfit that everyone else wears. Shit. The only difference is that he travels with a huge hook, reminiscent of “The Hook” story Barry and Ray told during that fateful night. Just as it appears that Julie is that only one being threatened, Barry gets a note in his gym locker that reads, “I Know” complete with a Polaroid of the car he was driving that night. Is the killer the man they struck? A pissed off family member? We know definitively the killer is not someone they know. In a moment of poetic justice, the killer fisherman jumps in Barry’s BMW and hits him with his own car. Barry has survived for now but he still doesn’t want to involve the cops, even if it means losing his life. Julie reveals that she’s been researching the person they hit and believes it to be a man named David Egan. Julie drives towards the Egan house as Helen reads a map anxiously. Helen: “What exactly is the plan? I mean are we just gonna ring the doorbell and say we killed your son and we were in the neighborhood sooo” Julie: Play it by ear. Helen: What if they’re waiting for us? What if they recognize us? They could have a gun and shoot us dead. Julie: It’s been a year Helen, they could have done that already. Helen: Yeah, Jodi Foster tried this and a skinner of a serial killer answered the door. As Helen references slasher, Silence of the Lambs (1991), she and Julie approach the Egan’s door. An odd, county bumpkin-looking woman comes out, played by Anne Heche. The woman, Missy Egan, is David Egan’s brother. Though she seems to believe the girls’ story that their car broke down and they need a phone, she is skeptical when Helen takes out a cell phone. Julie interrogates Helen, proving her relationship to David. Missy states that she had a brother but he died last July, causing their mother to be admitted into a home. It’s at this moment that Julie and Helen realize what damage they might have done to an entire family. They learn that David Egan lost his girlfriend a year earlier. Was he the man from the opening contemplating suicide? Just when it seems that Julie and Helen are friends again, Julie pulls away. Helen: What happened between us? We used to be best friends. Julie: We used to be a lot of things. Helen: I miss you. Julie shuts down, dropping Helen off at her house without a word. Helen walks past her father, into the house, with the killer right behind her. Helen falls asleep unharmed but wakes up to a nightmare. She takes off her crown she apparently slept in and is horrified as some of her hair comes off with it. The camera pans to her mirror where “SOON” is written in lipstick, mocking Helen’s obsession with her looks. Helens screams and smashes the window as if breaking the message will stop the killer from finding her. Barry comes over to comfort her, but another hellish event unfolds. Opening her trunk, Julie is greeted by Max’s rotting corpse and a ton of live crabs picking at his body. The crabs symbolize the killer’s knowledge of the night they hit the body. Barry had mentioned the benefits of dumping the body in water as crabs might eat away any traces of their involvement. Just as Barry and Helen run to the trunk, Julie opens it back up to nothing. No Max, no crabs. Barry and Helen don’t believe Julie despite her claims that the killer moved the body. Barry: Why would he do that? Julie: Where’s your jacket, Barry? Don’t you see? He’s got us now, okay this is exactly what he wants, we can’t go to the police, not now, he’s made sure of that. He’s just out there and he’s watching us and waiting. Julie’s had enough and runs into the street screaming, “What are you waiting for huh?!” She taunts the killer just as Sidney does when he first calls her. Barry still doesn’t believe the killer is some stranger, punching Ray in the face for being a fisherman. The group doesn’t believe his innocence until he shares that he’s gotten a note too. Julie changes the conversation to finding David Egan and maybe even Billy Blue, the name Missy Egan mentioned back at her house. They find their high school yearbook to look up David Egan. Final Girl, Julie takes control of the situation, barking orders to catch the killer. Julie: Helen this could be our chance, we could catch him. I’ll go to Missy’s, Barry you go to the parade with Helen and don’t let her out of your sight if he shows up… Barry: I’ll pound his ass. Knowing the screenwriter’s sense of humor from Scream and Dawson’s Creek, Barry’s alpha male aggression is delivered with homoerotic, double meaning. As Barry runs off in a rage, Julie accosts Missy asking her if David really did kill himself. Missy presents Julie with a suicide note, scrawled in the same handwriting as the killer’s notes and tells her to get out. Back at the Miss Croaker Pageant, on the anniversary of the incident, a new beauty queen is being crowned. The roles are flipped from last year’s pageant and instead of Barry watching Helen, Helen watches Barry. Helen watches helplessly as the killer hooks Barry to death on the same balcony where Barry stood last year. As usual, a dopey deputy shows up way too late, calls Helen crazy, and walks off. Where’s Scream’s Deputy Dewey when you need him? Unfortunately for the group, horror’s only competent cop hasn’t been invented yet. Deputy Douchebag throws Helen in the back of his cop car, just like Sidney was in Scream 2. The pig leaves Helen in the cop car, peering out from the grids of the protective barrier. And just like Sidney, Helen breaks out of the cop car and runs to temporary freedom. She’s no Final Girl, but she’s strong enough to have made it this far. Helen gets defenestrated, falls to the ground, and runs away, her coiffed, blonde hair intact. She escapes the killer only to be slashed to death behind a dumpster, a poetic death for the beauty queen. It’s surprising she’s made it this far with her hypersexuality, attraction to douchebags, and penchant for displaying her body. Julie, the strong, feminist, badass that she is, learns that the killer is Ben Willis, a fisherman who murdered David Egan after David hit Ben with his car. As it turns out, the gang didn’t kill anyone. So what’s the killer’s motive? Ben killed David, framing it as a suicide, as David had killed Ben’s daughter, Susie from the car crash. At this point, I get a little dizzy trying to keep up with the who-killed-who motive, here. I don’t see why David couldn’t have been the killer with the simple motive of revenge. But the complicated motives play out and we see that the name from Missy Egan, Billy Blue, is the name of Ray’s boat. Julie puts the mystery together as she discovers several corpses on ice, including Barry and Helen. That’s the thing about Final Girls, everyone around them dies. Julie notices the name, jumping on Ray’s boat, and accuses him of murder. Then the plot gets increasingly more confusing, as Ray is knocked unconscious by the killer, Ben Willis. Ben throws Julie in his boat and she finds articles and pictures of her group of friends, filling in the gaps to this crazy, complicated story. Just as it appears the Final Girl won’t survive, Ray comes to, jumping to Julie’s rescue. Julie grabs a metal grate on the floor and slides into the bottom deck of the boat. As Ray gets his footing, he sees the name of the killer’s boat, Sweet Susie, the daughter David Egan killed. Confused? Me too. Ray ends the confusing plotlines with a simple fisherman’s trick, hoisting the killer up with rope, slicing his hand off, and dropping him into the ocean. Julie and Ray take Ben for dead and return to shore, where Julie is finally able to return to a version of her former self and take Ray back as her boyfriend. Ray explains that he had Billy Blue’s boat because he felt guilty and went back to the family before Julie had. Oh. Okay. A cop questions the couple to find out why this man attacked them but they lie because well, fuck the police. The camera pans to the future, one year later, where Julie is now a sophomore planning a trip to see Ray in New York. She walks around in a towel, talking to Ray on the phone. Julie: I made the dean’s list. Thank you very much. I know I miss you too but I’m going to see you in a couple weeks, god I cannot wait, I love New York. No, of course, I love you more… you can ravage me in two weeks. Julie seems happy and almost normal. She’s committed to her boyfriend and even tells him how she feels. And of course, she made the dean’s list because she’s a badass Final Girl who won’t let tragedy drag down her GPA. Everything seems back to normal when Julie’s roommate hands her a letter. Shit. The letter is merely a party invitation and Julie sighs with relief. She returns to her shower, but a message is written on the foggy shower door. I STILL KNOW A man in black jumps out at her. But we know Julie and Ray survive as they’re in the sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998). As the credits roll, we begin to see why no one wanted to make Williamson’s movie before he proved himself with Scream. The ending to I Know is complicated, confusing, and full of simple jump scares. But ending aside, the film is an amazing 90’s slasher complete with feminist badass, Final Girl, Julie James. And I don’t want to be too harsh on the writer who also gave us Scream and Dawson’s Creek. I grew up loving Kevin Williamson and the feminist characters he created. His work always sends the message, only the feminists survive. Even though I’m all grown up, I still write, “I KNOW” on my mom’s bathroom mirror when I visit. I probably always will. Horror Geek Trivia Scream franchise screenwriter, Kevin Williamson wrote the I Know script before Scream (1996) but no one cared. It wasn’t until the success of Scream (Wes Craven, 1996) that Columbia Pictures contacted Williamson and bought the script for I Know. The group of friends goes to Dawson’s Beach in the first scene, a clear allusion to the show Williamson was writing, Dawson’s Creek. The author of the novel upon which the film is based absolutely fucking hates this movie. She hated that the filmmakers turned her book into a slasher as her daughter was murdered in 1989. In the book, I Know What You Did Last Summer, the main characters survive. Sarah Michelle Gellar (Helen) and Freddie Prinze Jr. (Ray) met on the set of the film and are still married today. The accident scene was actually filmed in California because North Carolina is too flat. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.