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!
The sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) picks up a year later with Final Girl, Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Party of Five) and 90s heartthrob, Freddie Prinze Junior (She’s All That) as her small-town boyfriend, Ray. I Still Know (1998) features edge-of-your seat suspense, brutal jump kills, and an amazingly 90s soundtrack. There’s nothing more 90s than watching flannelled coeds getting slaughtered to Orgy’s “Blue Monday” cover and Imogen Heap’s “Getting Scared.” Hook-wielding psycho-killer, Ben Willis (Muse Watson) returns with his trademark fisherman’s coat to get his revenge on Julie James. Julie and her friends hit Ben with their car and left him for dead years ago and Ben’s been trying to kill them ever since. Julie endured the first film, but will she survive the sequel?
From the small town of Southport, North Carolina, to the exotic islands of the Bahamas, Julie leaves Ray behind to vacation with her bestie Karla (Brandy, 90210) and her gorgeous beaux Tyrell (Mekhi Phifer, 8 Mile). Jack Black (High Fidelity) joins the star-studded cast as, well, himself, a weed dealer named Titus. The body count is higher than Jack Black and Julie and Brandy make one badass Final Girl coalition. Though not as amazing as the first film, I Still Know remains one of the greatest slashers of the 1990’s.
Much like Scream 2 (1997), the film’s main characters are no longer as white as a Friends reunion hosted by Martha Stewart. Departing from Scream 2, this film’s Black characters actually survive past the opening kill scene. While Julie’s BFF was originally slated to be white with Mekhi Phifer as the token person of color, Brandy showed up to the casting call and changed everything.
Brandy didn’t care that her character’s race had already been decided (seriously, what the fuck?). She showed up, auditioned for Karla, and got the part. Karla and Tyrell are a refreshing change from archetypical portrayals of people of color in horror films. Sure, Karla claims she wants to change her major to finance to work on Wall St. and get a “dope-ass bed,” but by keeping Karla and Tyrell alive for the majority of the film, we actually get to know them as people. We wouldn’t be able to say the same thing for so many Black characters in horror. Do you remember Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett from Scream 2 (1997)? How long did they last?
What about the security guard from Urban Legend (1998)? Did we ever get to see her as a fully fleshed out person or was she just another stereotype? While Brandy has perfectly manicured nails and flawless hair, even during storm season in the Bahamas, her gender does not define her. While Julie is drawn to the treadmill at the hotel gym (who the hell works out on vacation?), Karla kicks the shit out of a punching bag, even throwing some high MMA kicks in perfect form. Similarly, Tyrell isn’t just some stereotypical douchebag boyfriend. Of course, he whines about his sexual frustration but he loves Karla and treats her well. We get to see their relationship and complexity as everything that Julie and Ray’s traumatic relationship is not.
Not only have Julie and Ray survived a serial killer hacking their friends to death, they’re in a long-distance relationship. In college. Fuck. They don’t stand a chance. Julie is off at a college in Boston, no longer maintaining her 4.0 GPA, but attending a reputable institution just the same. Poor, lower class Ray, is back home in Southport, North Carolina working the docks. Adding even more complications, Julie’s biggest PTSD trigger is the town of Southport itself. That’s where she was a part of Ben’s murder, where she watched her friends get butchered, where she almost died. Julie’s happy new life in Boston is contingent on the repression of her previous trauma, which unfortunately includes Ray. While Ray wants to watch the fireworks and celebrate July 4th (the date they killed Ben Willis), Julie can’t face returning to the scene of the crime.
How dumb is Ray? Freddie Prinze Jr. is perfect casting, as his black gelled hair and pursed lip form the perfect, “Whaaat?” face. Why wouldn’t your traumatized girlfriend want to return to the town where she was attacked? Why would she want to go to the Bahamas with Brandy instead? Ray you fucking idiot. Julie has PTSD. You helped her escape in the last film—how dumb are you?
Ray reminds me of Sidney Prescott’s (Neve Campbell) boyfriend in Scream 2, beautiful but 100% clueless. Ray is the type of guy that says, But Julie, I’m not the guy who hurt you. It’s me. Ray! As if a PTSD brain can process that. As if PTSD allows Julie’s brain to differentiate Ray from the man who’s out to kill her. Every man is Ben Willis. Every man is a killer. All Ray wants to do is get married and buy a house but Julie can’t make it through the night without flashbacks of her attempted murder.
When someone tries to kill you, you don’t just move on like a bad breakup. Ice cream and romcoms don’t cure trauma. Nothing does. Julie’s trauma haunts her—it’s always there in the back of her mind. When will she get attacked next? Who’s going to hurt her this time? Much like Sidney Prescott, PTSD Scream queen, Julie is one flashback away from going postal. When people experience the trauma of attempted murder, memory itself is fractured. The hippocampus, where long term memory is stored, becomes shattered and fused with the present. A slammed door is a gunshot, your Friday night date is a killer. Nothing is as it seems and no one understands. After all these symptoms of trauma, Ray still doesn’t get it. Doesn’t Ray remember what happened last time? Here’s a quick recap in case you don’t either.
On July 4, 1997, Julie and Ray joined friends Barry (Ryan Phillipe, Shooter) and (Sarah Michelle Gellar, (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) on a double date that would change their lives forever. Celebrating their high school graduation and college plans, the teens raced around dark, windy curves of Southport, North Carolina and struck a man with their car. Barry distracted Ray’s driving and the car hit a pedestrian. Barry jumped out, red blood tainting his virginal white sweater as he shouted, “Jesus Christ, my fucking car!” The rest of the gang joined him, standing in the road, their faces frozen in horror. Julie spotted a bloody rubber boot in the dark night and the friends realized it wasn’t a deer they hit.
They just killed someone.
Though the man was still alive, the teens dropped the corpse in the water. As the group is all-White, they were not worried about getting arrested or shot by the cops, but a hit and run ticket could’ve endangered their student loans. Barry made the group swear that they would never say a word. But the man they left for dead wasn’t dead, and one year later, he’s out to kill them, one by one. Just as the group dumped the man’s corpse on the dock, he jumped back to life for one last scare. As the injured man grabbed Helen’s crown, her symbol of White privilege and high school royalty, Barry pushed the man into the water, burying him alive. Barry made everyone take the secret to their graves, another harbinger of the death to come. The group made the pact, overcome by guilt and shock. They climbed back into the car knowing their lives would never be the same …
Two years after the teens struck Ben Willis with his car, he’s out for revenge and this time, there’s a second killer. But Ryan Phillipe and Sarah Michelle Gellar aren’t the only superstars missing from the sequel. Kevin Williamson (Scream 1, 2, and 4), writer of the very first, I Know didn’t write this sequel. As we know from the tragedy that is Scream 3 (2000), Kevin Williamson sequels should not be made without him.
While I Still Know is a great 90’s slasher filled with suspense and gore, it’s missing that Kevin flare, that metahorror feel to it, where the dialogue is highly intelligent and the characters have amazing lines. Instead, we have a sequel that got such bad reviews, Freddie Prinze Jr. is still too ashamed to watch it until this very day. You know it’s bad when FPJ is embarrassed by something. Kevin Williamson is also known for his amazing ability to cast the hottest guys in Hollywood (hello, Ian Somerhalder), so his absence is felt when we’re left with Julie’s second suitor, Will Benson. Drab, country club Will is played by Smallville-looking nobody, Matthew Settle. Seriously, his name is Mr. Settle in real life. I Still was Mr. Settle’s first movie that wasn’t made for TV.
Besides, when do horror movies get great reviews? The Friday the 13th (Cunningham) franchise is still one of the highest grossing franchises with the lowest ratings of all time. From the very beginning of the film, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer does not disappoint. So enough horror geekdom, let’s get to the kills.
The film opens with besties Julie (Jennifer Love-Hewitt) and Karla (Brandy) answering a radio shock jock’s question, “What is the capital of Brazil?” Despite a year or two of college courses, neither coed can figure out the answer. Julie grabs a bag of coffee that says Rio and shouts “Rio, Rio!” The DJ says that’s the right answer and the girls shriek as they hear they’ll be going to the Bahamas for free. Their screaming is a harbinger of what’s to come because (as you might know), Rio is not the capital of Brazil. If you’re about to Google the capital of Brazil, it’s Brasília (it hasn’t been Rio since 1960). So whoever made that phone call isn’t with the radio station and just wants Julie James in Brazil.
Despite Ray’s warnings and pleas for Julie to stay with him in Southport, Julie heads off to the Bahamas with Karla, her boyfriend Tyrell, and goddamn Will. While sweetheart Ray is facing a July 4th weekend by himself, something in his puppy dog eyes says he’ll come to the rescue if needed. Despite Julie’s complete lack of geographical knowledge, her decision to leave the country for vacay shows the progress she’s made with her PTSD. The passport process alone is panic inducing, yet Julie is brave as fuck and boards that plane. Besides, it’s only monsoon season in an abandoned hotel in the Bahamas. What’s the worst that could happen?
Ray has his suspicions that killer Ben Willis is still out there, as he and a friend drive along the winding roads of Southport, North Carolina. In the dark night, Ray swerves and suddenly hits a man. Since the last time Ray left a man for dead he slashed all of his friends, he decides to get out of the car this time. As flannel-clad Ray turns the head of the body, he realizes it’s just a mannequin. This was just a decoy.
Ray’s Deliverance-looking friend looks on as Ray’s face goes white with horror. He calls out to his friend to run, but it’s too late. The killer appears in his fisherman outfit and hooks Ray’s friend right through the mouth, dragging him onto the concrete. Ray screams, “Nooooo” as he watches yet another friend’s throat get slashed at the hands of Ben Willis. The killer GTA’s the truck and drives towards Ray with increasing speed, yet Ray manages to escape. After this near-death experience Ray has one mission, get Julie James back from the Bahamas.
As Ray continues to hunt for clues and find ways to get to Julie, the gang is having tons of fun back on the islands. Although the hotel staff is mad creepy, Jack Black’s character is pervy, and there are literally no other hotel guests, there is karaoke. Content with a few rum-infused Dark and Stormies, Julie begins singing a great Final Girl anthem, “I Will Survive.” Suddenly the karaoke words change, and we hear the dun, dun, dun, dun, horror sounds that tell you someone’s about to die. As Julie sings, “you’re not welcome anymore” she forgets the lyrics and looks back at the screen. That’s when she sees those horrifying words, “I still know what you did last summer” on the karaoke screen. Julie doesn’t miss a beat, immediately guessing that the killer’s on the islands. “It’s him,” she says, horrified. But will anyone believe her?
Of course not. Ray is the only one who knows what happened to Julie that fateful day in Southport. Julie knows damn well that the only way to have some appearance of normalcy with friendships is to keep your mouth shut. She hasn’t told any of her new friends, not even her best friends, that someone tried to kill her and he still is. Julie knows that telling the people closest to her will only turn her into a victim, a pity party, the girl who got attacked. Keeping this secret from her friends allows them to treat Julie as she wishes to be treated, like a human. But when it comes to her flashbacks, it doesn’t help her case because who’s going to believe her now?
Will sneaks up on Julie with roses and a letter which triggers her PTSD causing her to knock the flowers to the floor, coming down in a crash of broken glass. Julie apologizes immediately and gets the hell away from Will, who is no Freddie Prinze Jr. Will is boring, drab, like if beige were human. He seems like the kind of guy that wears boat shoes and has stock options, then cheats on three girls at once blaming it on his rich parents’ divorce. Will is the type of guy that you know right away is a complete douchebag but you give him a chance anyway because he seems so lost.
Then the film goes from jumps scares to murders as one of the dock hands gets dragged under water, sliced and diced, right before stoned Jack Black’s eyes. The killer goes back inside, slashes a maid and keeps moving. He carries her corpse with his hook, stuffs her in a closet, and goes onto the next victim. The fake radio phone call that got the college kids here, the multiple kills, all of it adds up to a two-killer theory. And we know from Scream that Kevin Williamson has always been a fan of two killers. So if Ben Willis is the first killer, who is the second? We also know from Kevin that the killer is probably someone in the friend group, but who?
Finally, Jack Black’s character, Titus, gets hooked in the hand. And while Jack Black can’t act, at least we get to watch him die? With his hand hooked to a butcher’s block he screams, “Seriously don’t do that.” But the killer doesn’t care about the weak pleas from a white boy with dreads. Ben stabs Titus through the chest with big-ass shears and walks away. Shit. Julie James is one badass Final Girl, but with two killers on the loose, and no working phones, it’s not looking so good for our hero.
Back in the South, Ray does what he can to help Julie. He stands in the pouring rain to make a call from a pay phone, then tries to pawn his engagement ring for a gun. Awww Ray’s such a sweetie. While the pawn shop sleazebag owner is not impressed with the ring Ray was planning on giving Julie, Ray is not here for your shit. Ray takes a stern tone and haggles with the grease ball until he agrees to give him the six-shooter pistol he sees beneath the glass counter. It’s an interesting metaphor, getting rid of the engagement ring in exchange for a gun. It speaks to the absence of normality present in the lives of slasher survivors. Rings? Weddings? Who has time for that when you’re trying to prevent a mass funeral?
The Final Girl doesn’t need a floral pattern or vows to make her life complete. All she needs is her own strength and willingness to fight back. And since she’s outnumbered and isolated, having Freddie Prinze Jr. and a gun couldn’t hurt. Back at the rained-in hotel, the four friends are all piled into one room to help Julie feel safe. Julie, dressed in virginal white (ironic given her racy past with Ray), paces by the window, feeling anything but safe.
And while we don’t have Kevin Williamson’s metahorror touch, we get close when Tyrell makes a few references. Climbing out of bed Tyrell says, “what about Freddy, or uh, Jason or somebody?” While boring old Will pleads with Tyrell to leave Julie alone, Tyrell does not give a fuck. He complains about the rain, not getting any, and the fact that they have to hold Julie’s hand the whole time. It’s at this very moment that we wonder if Tyrell’s douche level is high enough to get him killed. And there’s still something very suspicious about Will. How did he manage to invite himself along? Why is he going after Julie knowing she has a way hotter boyfriend?
No one believes Julie until BAM! the maid’s bloody corpse falls out of the closet, scaring Karla. Okay, this shit is real. Karla screams and runs to tell Julie, but they decide to go to the hotel gym anyway. Maybe the killer has an aversion to working out? While Karla hits the boxing area, Julie gets into a tanning bed. Do you remember now? The infamous tanning bed scene? What’s whiter than Jennifer Love-Hewitt trapped in a tanning bed in the Bahamas? The killer has turned up the heat and zip-tied the handles of the tanning bed closed. But Julie’s got her Walkman on and she doesn’t hear anything.
Julie notices the heat and finally takes out her headphones. As the heat intensifies, she thrashes and screams in the burning blue lights of the tanning bed, hoping someone can hear her. Will, Tyrell, and Karla all come running to Julie’s rescue. Will hands Tyrell a weight to bash the zip-ties and let Julie out. How did Will know where to look? How did he know how to get someone out of a locked tanning bed? None of this adds up, and suddenly, Julie gets it.
“We didn’t even answer the radio question right. This whole thing is a set up!” Julie argues, her hands out in a JLH-style rage. Karla looks at Julie incredulously, “What the fuck are you talkin’ about?” Julie stands there looking like a pissed of geography teacher yelling, “Rio isn’t the capital of Brazil. Sorry, wrong answer we lose!” Tyrell still doesn’t believe Julie, but he doesn’t seem like the killer type. He argues with Julie, “Then where’s the killer? Where’s this Ben Willis guy?”
We cut to Ray, looking hot as hell in his dripping wet flannel and bloody face. He points the loaded gun at a fisherman. Ray pleads with the man to take him out on his boat to get to the hotel in the Bahamas. The fisherman complains about the weather, monsoon season and all, hoping Ray will give up. Wrong. Ray points the gun right at him and says, “I’m not looking for a weather report. I’m looking for a boat. So which one’s yours?” Ray has proven himself to be badass throughout these films. He doesn’t have the money that everyone else does being a poor fisherman. But with one engagement ring, Ray gets a gun, and with that gun, gets a boat. He might just make it to Julie in time.
The four friends are now outside in the rain looking for the killers. One of the creepy hotel workers turns out to be helpful. Maybe? Although he does Voodoo and shit, this groundskeeper seems to want to help Julie and her friends survive. He tells them the story of Ben Willis, that he stayed at this very hotel in their same room with his family. Ben had a wife and a daughter, but one night people heard screaming. There was blood, lots of blood and everyone assumed Ben had killed his wife. Rumor has it that Ben’s wife cheated on him and that’s why he killed her. “Now, he’s back,” says the groundskeeper, who has now led the four friends into a dark spot on the islands. Is he working with the killers?
The four friends now stand in front of a gravesite. One headstone is blank, spray painted in red Julie James 1979-1990. “What’s today’s date?” Julie asks, her wet shirt draped around her black bra. “July fourth,” Karla confirms. Shit. Tyrell still claims there is no “damn psycho killer” then gets hooked through the neck and discarded in the hotel kitchen. We’re down to our two Final Girls, Will, and the bartender. The survivors run through the hotel, having no time to mourn the death of Tyrell.
Karla leaps through the air and does some badass parkour to roll off the roof of a building and safely to the ground. But she’s got to walk across a plate-glass ceiling to get to real safety. With every step, Karla cracks the ground beneath her and she seems seconds away from falling to her death. Finally, the glass breaks and Karla falls through the shards, screaming. She appears to be okay for now, but where is the killer? Right behind her. Julie and the bartender try to escape, but their only way out is through a heavily bolted door. Somehow Julie has the keys, but there are far too many and we see the hook drawing near.
The Hitchcockian suspense continues as the killer gets closer, a black crow following his every step. Julie’s had enough of this key and lock bullshit. She screams, “Get outta the way!” and breaks glass to get to an ax. Without hesitation, she breaks the locks off the door and clears the way for everyone else to escape. At first glance, Julie looks like her old cosmetic commercials, wet hair, open blouse, acid-washed jeans. But looking at her face, you’d think she’s Jack Nicholson with an ax in The Shining (1980). Julie has a crazed look on her face as if she’s about to shout, “Heeere’s Johnny!”
Julie pulls Karla to safety and they all hide in a storm shelter, where the killer has stored all the dead bodies. Will appears out of nowhere ala Billy Loomis (Scream) trying to look all innocent and helpful. Julie looks at Will suspiciously as he tells everyone the fisherman is gone. How does Will know where the killer is? Why didn’t the killer go after Will? As Julie dodges the killer, Karla is not as fast. Both Karla and the bartender get slashed by the killer. Karla had all the makings of a Final Girl, but she broke the rules of horror by drinking and having sex with her boyfriend while Julie remained chaste and sober. Karla allowed herself to relax, be comfortable. Even though Kevin Williamson didn’t write this screenplay, he wrote the first film, so chances are Karla is still alive. Much like Scream, Kevin’s Final Girls can break the rules as long as they remain agentic, strong, and feminist. Besides, you really think you can take down Brandy?
Julie faces off with Will in the final scene. Will looks especially date rapey, as he reveals his true identity. He looks up slowly, like a country club Norman Bates and says, “It’s not my blood, Julie.” Julie steps back, horrified. If Will wasn’t attacked, then whose blood is it? She begins to cry, almost letting herself feel real human emotion. And that’s when Will strikes. He grabs her arm and attempts to look sinister (but his acting is so bad he sounds like Ace Ventura). “What’s your favorite radio station?” Will shouts, outing himself as the “radio DJ” who convinced them to come to the islands in the first place. Julie cries, “No, no…”
As it turns out, Will Benson is Ben’s son. Get it? Ben’s son, Benson. I honestly don’t know whether to give the writers props for that one because I didn’t catch it. Or perhaps I should smack them for such a simple play on words. Will drags Julie back to the graveyard, where Ben waits to unveil his identity. Ben and Ben’s son have Julie and it looks like this is it for our Final Girl. Ben is seconds away from killing Julie when Ray shows up and fires his six-shooter. Ray must not have checked the gun on the boat ride over because the revolver fires a blank. I would’ve gone with a Glock 7s like the Scream killers—they’re more reliable and easier to aim. But Ray was in a hurry and limited to pawn shop options so we won’t judge his choice of weapon right now. Ben gets his hook out and lunges at Ray to kill him, but Ray dodges just in time and the hook goes right into Will, killing him.
In beautiful poetic justice, the hook the killer has been wielding to hunt and torment Julie and her friends is what ended up killing his own son. If the stories hold true, Ben Willis has now officially killed every single member of his family. Dude needs some serious therapy. While Will may be bleeding out in the rain, Julie is not fucking done with Ben Willis. She grabs Rays gun and fires several shots, presumably killing him. But as we know from Randy in Scream, “never, ever under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead—the killer always comes back to life for one last scare.” Julie fires enough rounds into Ben to force his body into the empty grave.
Ray and Julie hug as mud and rain fill up Ben’s grave. We pan out to the next morning as the Coast Guard finally arrives. Seriously? Where the fuck have you been? Along with the Coast Guard comes Karla, alive and well. It turns out we have two Final Girls after all. We fast forward a bit to Ray and Julie living the 1990’s American Dream. A home of their own, complete with dial-up Internet, and a land line! Julie sports a new engagement ring and looks dotingly at her adorable Ray. Final Girls don’t need to be rescued, but they’re tough enough to accept help when they need it. Ray and Julie can finally have their honeymoon and return to some semblance of normalcy. Suddenly, Julie hears a noise in the house. Is this her PTSD or did the killer survive? Ben pops out from under the bed and drags Julie under with him. Was it a dream or were Ray and Julie slaughtered in their perfect home? Check out I Will Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006) to find out!
Horror Geek Trivia
While the film was set in the Bahamas it was actually shot in Mexico and California.
Peter Jackson was asked to direct but declined.
The body count is ten, Dave, Darick, Olga, Titus Telesco, Hotel Manager, Tyrell, Estes, Nancy, Will Benson, and Ben Willis. It’s twelve counting Ben’s dead wife and daughter.