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by Jim Wunderle

"I Still Know What You Did Last Summer"

Directed by: Danny Cannon

Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Brandy, Freddie Prinze Jr.

Rated: R

Of all movie genres, the horror film seems to be the one that spawns the greatest number of sequels, spin-offs, rip-offs and remakes.

Even in the early days of film, studios realized they could milk the public's love of being scared to death by familiar maniacs and monsters for all it was worth.

"Frankenstein," "The Bride of Frankenstein," "Son of Frankenstein," "Dracula," "Dracula's Daughter," "The Invisible Man," "The Invisible Man Returns" all of these films were done in the 1930s.

Throw in the Dracula and Frankenstein titles produced by Hammer Films in the 1960s, and add up the countless pictures from studios far and wide with familiar monsters as their main characters, and you've got quite a body of work on your hands.

The latest trend we can trace it back to 1978 with the release of John Carpenter's "Halloween" is the "teen slasher" series. Immediately following that movie came the imitators and their sequels: "Friday the 13th" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" are the most popular, but the "Child's Play" series fits in there somewhere, as do several other lesser-known attempts.

Of late we have the Neve Campbell vehicles "Scream" and "Scream 2," and now there's the Jennifer Love Hewitt franchise (the teen slasher genre thrives on having a continuing character, almost always a young "babe") "I Know What You Did Last Summer."

The original (it really seems like it just came out), while not a great movie, had its interesting points. Besides playing up the usual "fear of being hacked to death" angle, it played on another great teenage anxiety: the guilty secret.

Two couples, out joyriding, accidentally run down a guy on the highway. Thinking him dead, they get rid of the body and try to live with their horrible secret. Then as usually happens in this type of movie those involved start getting bumped off, one at a time.

The real scary parts come as notes and warnings to Julie James (Hewitt) that say, "I know what you did last summer ..."

So, with a babe like Jennifer Love Hewitt in the lead role, a high body count and a new twist on the slasher weapon (a big fish hook), it was inevitable there would be a sequel.

As a matter of fact, even though "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" has just been released, a third film is already on the drawing board.

At this rate I can see dozens of sequels and finally one featuring Julie as a slightly senile old woman, titled "What Did I Do That Summer?"

One of the strengths of the original was the fact that it was written by Kevin Williamson, who also wrote "Scream" and the TV series "Dawson's Creek." This time, writing chores are handled by Trey Callaway, and director duty has been handed to Danny Cannon, the man who gave us the less-than-stunning "Judge Dredd."

As "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" opens, we see Julie, still haunted by fiendish nightmares, most of them occurring while she's sleeping through class at college.

A perfect opportunity to relieve a lot of this stress comes when Julie's roommate, Karla, wins a radio contest, a trip for four to some little resort in the Bahamas. If you're geographically impaired take note: Rio de Janeiro is not the capital of Brazil.

When Karla, her boyfriend, Julie and a new guy named Will (who Karla has tried to force Julie on) arrive at their dream resort, things start out bad and quickly become rotten.

First off, the staff all seem like people too rude to get jobs as New York City cab drivers, and it happens that 4th of July is the official beginning of the storm season around these parts.

Within a couple of hours of arrival, the kids find themselves to be the only people left on the island besides the rude staff, a pudgy Caucasian pot head with dreadlocks and a weird Bahamian voodoo man, that is. (Can you say "slasher fodder"?)

As the storm rolls in, the killings, and the "I still know what you did ..." notes begin.

What transpires in the body of the film is sort of like an episode of "Scooby Doo," only with lots of blood and without the cute talking dog. When the plot twists are revealed at the finale, you'll feel like you've been slashed with a big fish hook, too.

On the other hand, teens will love it (which makes me wonder how these kids get admitted to films that are rated "R"), it will make a lot of money, and next year we'll see the same thing again, even more ludicrously conceived and executed.

That's Hollywood ...

(Jim Wunderle works at Associated Video Producers and is a Springfield free-lance writer and musician.)

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