[review by JA Kerswell]
|Sarah (Sarah Chalke) didn't get the memo on how to make friends and influence people in I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU.|
I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU mixes teen witch paranoia with teen slasher to mildly enjoyable, if lightweight, effect. Based on a Lois Duncan novel, and coming after the adaptation of her earlier work, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1997), enjoyed considerable box office success the year before. Like that film, slasher elements were inserted into source material that didn’t previously have them - although to lesser effect here as they are blunted by its small screen origins. Still, it is an interesting relic of just how far the tendrils of SCREAM (1996) reached through the second half of the 1990s and beyond.
Sarah (Sarah Chalke) is a sassy, no-nonsense teenage girl, who has just moved with her Mom (Markie Post) across the country from California to Massachusetts to start a new life. They have leased an old house in the small town of Pinecrest, where 300 years ago a teenage girl was burnt at the stake for witchcraft. Sarah feels that she has seen this house somewhere before and is further spooked when she receives a phone call from someone saying: “I’ve been waiting for you … Welcome home.” She is further unnerved to find that she shares her first name with the girl murdered 300 years previously.
Sarah has trouble adjusting to High School. Her Californian attitude and hippy goth clothes immediately make her stand out. However, she does make a tentative friendship with the nerdy Charlie (Ben Foster) - who runs the local crystal and occult shop when he’s not in school. She also attracts the negative attention of the mean girls Debbie (Maggie Lawson), Kyra (Soleil Moon Frye) and Misty (Julie Patzwald) - as well as their jock boyfriends Eric (Christan Campbell) and Kevin (Chad Cox). The group call themselves the ‘five descendants’, as they are directly related to the townspeople who burned the girl accused of witchcraft at the stake 300 years previously. Urban legend says that she had vowed her vengeance on their families. The group starts to suspect Sarah may be the reincarnation of the witch and at first treats it as a type of jokey game. However, after one of their numbers is found scared to death - and the rest of them are menaced by someone in a witch’s mask with long metal nails for fingers - they begin to take the prospect deadly seriously. Sarah must uncover whoever is behind the witch’s mask before the remaining descendants recreate the fiery inferno of 300 years ago and also put her in mortal danger …
|1,2, Witchface is coming for you!|
I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU is based on Duncan’s 1997 novel Gallow's Hill. She had been upset at how her 1973 novel I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER had been reenvisioned as a slasher movie in the wake of the box office success of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s SCREAM (1996). Duncan had become sensitive to violence after the real-life murder of her daughter in 1989. The adaptation of her novel also has the slasher angle added that wasn’t in the book - although these elements were seriously curtailed by the standards for TV movies at the time.
Whilst the killer - in Halloween store witch mask, black robes and Freddy-style finger blades - is somewhat memorable, they are barely seen in the first half of the movie. And when they do show up they are largely ineffective. Stalking scenes are brief and the body count is skeletal - with only one death (bar the flashback to the 1600s). One of the group supposedly dies of fright - another has her face scratched and one jock gets locked in a cage with his mouth covered with duct tape. It is hardly going to give Ghostface sleepless nights - let alone anyone else! Unfortunately, the film is also otherwise unfocused with characters making decisions that seemingly contradict what they have said five minutes earlier. Shoehorning in a slasher angle is hardly surprising given the success the subgenre was enjoying at the time, but is sometimes awkward given that the film also retains the ‘is she/isn’t she a witch?’ aspect of the book, too.
|A slasher aspect was shoehorned into another Lois Duncan adaptation in I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU during the 90s slasher revival.|
Sarah Chalke (in pre-SCRUBS (2001-2010) fame) has fun with the main character but plays her more like a world-weary, sarcastic 30-year-old than a teenage girl. The rest of the cast do as well as they can with a messy script. Even the added revelation and motive of who is behind the witch mask feels rushed and doesn’t really make sense. It feels tacked on because it was. Earlier made-for-TV slasher-lite movies - such as NO PLACE TO HIDE (1981) and DEADLY LESSONS (1983) - had similar limitations, but worked better because they weren’t trying to forcibly graft one horror genre onto another.
I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU was shot in and around Vancouver, Canada in early 1998. Ironically, the film was largely promoted in TV listings as a supernatural horror film, with its slasher leanings played down. One bit of fun trivia is that it was produced by Joel S. Rice - who played Radish in Golden Era slasher FINAL EXAM (1981). Another is that Christian Campbell, who plays Eric the jock - is the real-life older brother of Neve Campbell, who, of course, played Sidney Prescott in SCREAM. I wonder if they swapped notes? The 1999 direct-to-DVD slasher LOVER’S LANE (released in 2000) was put out in the UK as an erroneous sequel I’M STILL WAITING FOR YOU - obviously attempting to spark comparisons to the 1998 sequel I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.
I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU is lightweight, small-screen entertainment and would fill a void on a rainy afternoon.
female: 2 / male: 0
1) Female burnt at the stake (flashback)
2) Female dies of fright
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