Ready to feel old? “I Know What You Did Last Summer” celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier this week! Directed by Scotland-born Jim Gillespie and penned by “Scream” screenwriter Kevin Williamson, the classic teen slasher flick first hit theatres on October 17, 1997, becoming an instant hit with viewers, eventually raking in a total of $125 million worldwide! As Gillespie recounted to Digital Spy in 2017, “It was meant to be kind of a stand-alone revisit of those classic ’80s horror films. It worked! The movie was number one three weeks in a row. It just clicked with the audience. The title clicked and everything just seemed to work. Third week was Halloween weekend and it was number one in its third week. I couldn’t believe it stuck there for three weeks.”
Based upon Lois Duncan’s 1973 novel of the same name, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (currently streaming on Paramount Plus) tells the story of recent high school graduates/best friends Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt), Helen Shrivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Barry Cox (Ryan Phillippe) and Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze Jr.), who accidentally hit and kill a man while driving on a desolate road late one July night shortly before they are to leave for college. The foursome decides to cover up the death, dumping the body in the ocean, and vow never to speak of it again. But the secret, of course, doesn’t stay buried. Upon returning home at the conclusion of their freshmen year, an anonymous villain donning a fisherman’s slicker and a metal hook begins to terrorize the teens, claiming, “I know what you did last summer.” As detailed by Screen Rant, “The ingredients were basic. Gather together a group of attractive rising stars, toss in a masked or hooded psycho, and have most of the characters meet their demise at the psycho’s hands — or knife, or machete, or other trademark weapon. Films like this were easy to make, but difficult to make well, which is part of why ‘IKWYDLS’ proved so popular. It’s genuinely good.” Two sequels were eventually released, as well as a streaming series produced by Amazon Prime in 2021. None fared as well as the original, though, which remains beloved today, especially amongst those who grew up in the ’90s.
Gloomy and haunting from the jump, “IKWYDLS” takes place and was primarily shot in North Carolina, with a few scenes lensed on California’s northern coast. Gillespie and production designer Gary Wissner looked to two classic thrillers for the film’s visual inspiration – John Carpenter’s original “Halloween,” which took place in the fictional Haddonfield, Ill., and Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” which was set on the fictional Amity Island. Of the latter, Gillespie told Digital Spy, “There’s lots of stuff that nods to ‘Jaws;’ Fourth of July parades, all those things . . . I wanted the waterfront to have a New England feel, and ‘Jaws’ was that.”
Southport, a seaside enclave situated on North Carolina’s picturesque eastern shore, provided filmmakers with the perfect small-town backdrop for the movie’s harrowing action. Thoroughly idyllic, the tiny burg (which measures a scant 3.8 square miles) is the last place one would expect a deranged hook-wielding killer to be roaming around terrorizing local teens.