It’s a well-known fact that SCREAM (1996) kick started a second coming for the slasher movie. Following in the wake of its success multiplexes everywhere were chock a block with tales of masked killers and their ‘scooby-doo’ motives. IKWYDLS was one of the first to cash in – featuring a similarly young cast with airbrushed complexions who spout hip dialogue written by SCREAM alumnus Kevin Williamson. The script is based on the 1973 novel by Lois Duncan, which is generally regarded as being quite different to this Hollywood 90s update. For starters, I don’t think Duncans teen novel had a heroine whose ample bosoms protrude from tops that would make any self respecting father scream ‘you’re not going anywhere dressed like that’.
The film revolves around four high school friends who have just graduated and are looking forward to leaving behind small town life and heading to college. Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and wimpish boyfriend Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr) promise to stay together even though their prospective colleges are in different cities. Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) plans to become an actress in New York and boyfriend Barry (Ryan Philippe) who wants to become a professional jock. It’s the 4th of July and they appear to have the world at their feet. However it isn’t long before they also have one unfortunate pedestrian under the wheels of their car! Whilst driving on a winding coastal road they accidentally hit the anonymous individual whose subsequently bloodied visage makes him unrecognisable. Guilt ridden Julie is adamant they call the police but is convinced by the others that they’ll be accused of manslaughter. So instead of dialling 911 they decide it would be better to cover up the incident by throwing the body in the sea.
One year later and they still bear the mental scars of that night. In Hollywood terms this means they look paler than usual, like a foursome of glamorous goths. Julie is flunking her college course and returns home to a mother who thinks her daughter is on drugs. Helen has failed in her bid for stardom and is back working in the family department store. Ray, who split up with Julie shortly after the previous years events, is working on the local docks. Barry seems to be the only one getting on with his life but this is merely because he is a self centred, spoiled rich kid who doesn’t suffer from any kind of guilt. It isn’t long before Julie receives the infamous greeting card and mayhem ensues. People start being offed with the killer's signature hook hand and various practical ‘jokes’ are played on the quartet. Julie finds a friends body in the trunk of her car and Helen suffers every girls worst nightmare – having her hair trimmed whilst she sleeps (I’m not sure if this is considered worse than breaking a nail, I’ll keep you posted). As they desperately try to unravel who is the culprit, their numbers start dwindling faster than your average Napalm Death song.
The movies main strength lies in the realistic effects the “hit and run” has on the quartet. With the exception of the obnoxious Barry, everyone seems genuinely remorseful which helps us to empathise with them a bit more. And unlike SCREAM, IKWYDLS skimps on the laughs & dark humour. Williamsons trademark dialogue rears its head from time to time (there’s a reference to a ‘Dawsons beach’) but this is more of a traditional slasher than Wes Cravens 1996 trend-setter. It’s straight-laced thrills with only a small element of mystery thrown in for good measure. A cocktail that works well and led to big business at the box office.
Although I’m the first to moan about pretty young TV stars dominating the lead roles in modern horror I have to admit that the cast in this one is actually quite good. Bar the cringe inducing ‘what are you waiting for!!!!’ moment, Jennifer Love Hewitt is excellent in the Jamie Lee Curtis ‘smart-girl’ role (although, as previously mentioned, this smart girls wardrobe seems to consist of tops that a few sizes too small for her), Sarah Michelle Gellar is equally good as the obligatory cheerleader type and Anne Heche is great as a ‘one sandwich short of a picnic’ yokel.
The small town setting is captured brilliantly also, the docks and the local hall are highly evocative locations and I particularly love the “Shivers” crap department store which sells a little bit of everything yet nothing worthwhile (there were a number of them in my hometown). Suspense is handled well also, particularly in the hit and run scene where they struggle to hide the body from an oncoming car.
Are 4 stars a bit too generous? Well I think you should know a little about this reviewer and his (some would say) warped mindset. I rate this film higher than SCREAM. Along with the brain meltingly dumb URBAN LEGEND (1998), IKWYDLS is my favourite of the post 96 slasher boom. And if that doesn’t prove that my taste is slightly off kilter then I should also let you know that around these parts I’m known as ‘the boy who likes EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC’. I assume I’m not alone in my fondness for IKWYDLS as the film was successful enough to justify a sequel which arrived the following year adding more preposterous plot twists whilst taking away a few more buttons from Miss Hewitt's blouse.
female:2 / male:4
1) Male killed with hook in jaw
2) Male stabbed with hook
3) Male stabbed with hook
4) Female slashed with hook
5) Female stabbed with hook
6) Male drowned