[Review] Amazon’s ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ series is messy and dark

The 1997 movie I Know What You Did Last Summer holds a special place in slasher enthusiasts’ hearts. So naturally a television remake is bound to make those same fans wary. Their caution is warranted in this case, seeing as Amazon’s take of Lois Duncan‘s 1973 YA novel is a massive update full of surprises and upsets. Even so, the positives outweigh the negatives.

It should be known, Kevin Williamson’s script for the ’97 adaptation was bloodier than its source material. This reimagining follows the same path while also expanding on the characters’ lives and personalities. Slasher narratives where the victims are also guilty of a heinous crime are already hard to digest. The hard work comes from making those same characters somewhat sympathetic even though they do not necessarily deserve mercy. Sara Goodman‘s version, however, sets up a scenario so wretched and unforgivable. How does someone ever come back from this kind of darkness?

The TV version of I Know What You Did Last Summer has its hands full from the start. The characters are no cookie cutouts with picture-perfect lives before the ill-fated accident on graduation night. Lennon (Madison Iseman) and her friends are all fairly loathsome or, at the very least, obnoxious. When Lennon is not berating her unpopular twin, Allison (also Iseman), she is hurting everyone through acts of selfishness and a total disregard for their feelings. It is only when they run over a loved one does their debauchery take a beat. The sobriety of their misdeed is powerful. A night of celebration ends in a blood pact that makes that of the original seem paltry by comparison. The plot jolts do not stop there; there is another seismic shock in store that changes everything.

The idyllic venue, a small Hawaiian town, is a shadow of its former self. Lennon returns home after going away to college and finds the series’ eponymous phrase painted on her bedroom mirror. This forces her and her estranged friends to acknowledge what happened last year, as well as amend their broken ties. For some it is easier, whereas for others like the boy who incidentally drove a wedge between the twins, moving on is all but impossible.

These first four episodes do a good job of pulling up the carpet and revealing the hard, cold floor beneath. Lennon’s clique is comprised of complicated folks driven by their id rather than their sense of morality. Their lack of compassion for their crime is replaced with carnal urges and heavy drug use. As for the slasher elements, I Know does not hold back. The first kill is brutal and over the top. A lot has changed since ’97, and gore fiends should feel assured knowing the series does not ignore their desire for heavy bloodletting and violence.

This is not a cut-and-dry slasher where the audience’s empathy is defaulted rather than earned. On the contrary, this version of I Know is excruciatingly messy and prime for dissenting opinions. Yet the more curious and receptive viewers will find themselves unable to turn this series off once it gets going.

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