Lois Duncan’s classic novel was turned into two fan favourite slasher films in the late 90s (and a third straight-to-DVD sequel we don’t talk about). Amazon’s newly updated teen-sex & gorefest is nothing like those films. But what could’ve been an interesting take on the novel, turns into a frustratingly unfocused teen-drama that is anything but fun.
The series starts at a pool party where teens take hard drugs, have sex and we see a teenage boy peeing in the pool. There’s full frontal nudity solely for shock value, because the story itself lacks any of it. Amazon dropped the first four episodes on their streaming platform, which by the time you’ve finished them you’re either fully invested into the lives of these unlikable teens, or you’re hate watching it because you want to know how ridiculous this’ll all come to an end. I mean, you’ve made it halfway through the season, why not finish it?
Those familiar with the book or the movies know what sets off a killing spree in a small coastal town, but for those who don’t, a short recap. A group of friends “accidentally” hit someone with their car. Instead of calling the cops and get help, they get rid of the body and swear to never talk about it. A year later the main character gets the titular warning, spooking her and her friends to investigate who’s threatening to out them before they all get killed off.
We first meet blonde identical twins Allison and Lennon (both played by Madison Iseman), who are complete opposites in every single way. One’s a party girl, the other isn’t. After Lennon has sex with Allison’s longtime crush, Dylan (Ezekiel Goodman), both sisters get into a fight and we get to know a little bit about their past, and how their mother killed herself. As we find out in the final episodes, their mother is still alive and ran off to start a new life. The twins are dressed the same, but one minor change in appearance makes everyone think Lennon is Allison and vice versa. An angry Allison drives off, but before she can Lennon’s drunk/drugged friends hop into the car thinking she’s Lennon and off we go, running over Lennon – who they think is Allison – and hiding her body in a nearby cave – where apparently the twins’ mother killed herself and a local cult committed mass suicide – waiting for the high tide to take her body. Note, none of this info has any real meaning later on in the series.
Allison moves on, living her life as Lennon. Her father (played by Bill Heck) knows about this. When she returns to Hawaii from summer college, the titular message awaits her and her friends, who are still doing drugs, but now with different haircuts and some obviously still scarred from what happened that one particular night. People around town get killed in gruesome ways, and if you thought the cute gay couple was gonna survive, you’re wrong. They’re actually in front of the line to get offed. One gets decapitated, and the other gets his face smashed in by a dumbbell. Some inventive kills make up for the unnecessary flashbacks and cringeworthy dialogue. It’s as if the writers wanted to cram in as much “youth lingo” to make it seem authentic, not realising it turns your serious drama into a comedy. A not a good one.
The problem this series doesn’t want to face is that it just can’t build suspense or momentum by constantly rehashing the same thing over and over again, and making the viewer believe they’re stupid. Is it a show for teens or adults? My answer: I have no fucking clue. An OnlyFans side plot, the father’s involvement with the local cult, a series of events involving Lennon’s girl crush, Margot (Brianne Tju),… it’s all just shock value for the sake of it, without ever giving it real substance. The writing is as unhinged as the events throughout leading to the big reveal of the killer.
As aforementioned, this is a spoiler review, so let’s talk about that ending. After Dylan realises Lennon is dead and Allison is faking her identity, the cops don’t believe him. Because why would they? When the twins’ mother shows up in town, and soon after gets slaughtered by the killer, Dylan enters the final showdown, where Allison just got stabbed by Margot. Her motive for all those killings – which she orchestrated with her parents: love. Mental illness is real, people. Go to therapy! We love a bit of a stretch, but this ain’t it. The worst part of it all, creeper stalker boy Dylan gets framed by Allison – because she wants to hold on to her fake identity – and Margot gets her “happy ending” with (the fake) Lennon after all. Dylan is seen reading from the cult’s bible to his fellow inmates and the presumed dead but in honey preserved Riley (the only likeable character played by Ashley Moore) opens her eyes to hopefully put an end to this madness off screen.
The credits roll and in true unhinged social media influencer-style, Margot commits to all of her crimes and explains everything on video – who is this supposed to be for? – which is basically a cop out from the creator to tie all the loose ends, because let’s be honest, none of it makes any sense.
I Know What You Did Last Summer is stuffed with plot holes, gimmicky acting and insufferable writing. The direction is as expected for a show like this, but what could’ve been a more than decent slasher series for horror fans to feast on, has become another waste of time in the golden age of television.
Reviewed November 13, 2021 on Amazon Prime Video. Rating: TV-14. Running time: 8 x 45 min.
PRODUCTION: An Amazon Prime Video release of an Amazon Studios, Atomic Monster, Original Film & Sony Pictures Television production. Executive Producers: Sara Goodman, Michael Clear, Erik Feig, Peter Guber, Rob Hackett, Shay Hatten, Craig William Macneill, Neal H. Moritz, Pavun Shetty & James Wan.
CREW: Directors: Logan Kibens, Craig William Macneill & Benjamin Semanoff. Created for television by: Sara Goodman. Writers: Lana Cho, Phoebe Fisher, Sara Goodman, Chaconne Martin Berkowicz, Johanna Stokes & Gary Tieche. Editing: Monica Daniel & Christopher M. Meagher. Cinematography: Anka Malatynska. Music: Drum & Lace, Ian Hultquist.
CAST: Madison Iseman, Bill Heck, Brianne Tju, Ezekiel Goodman, Ashley Moore, Fiona Rene, Cassie Beck, Brooke Bloom, Sonya Balmores & Danielle Delaunay.