Reviews | Written by JD Gillam 15/10/2021

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER Season 1, Episodes 1-4

Ah, nostalgia. The mid-to-late '90s were home to a mini-revival of the slasher genre, thanks to the shock therapy that Wes Craven’s Scream so wonderfully provided.

One of the films to be released during this time was I Know What You Did Last Summer, which also received a middling sequel and a frankly poor third film.

Based on a 1973 novel by the same name, the 1997 film was flashy and played exactly how it was intended to an audience that were savvy to the beats of the slasher film, adding the whodunnit side of things to proceedings. With a runtime of 101 minutes, it didn’t have time for real character development, but it kept a great pace throughout.

Fast forward to today, and Amazon Prime Video has released a new series, consisting of eight episodes, that uses the basic premise but takes a very different approach to the overall tale.

Beware, there be potential spoilers ahead!

Based in Hawaii, a group of friends at their graduation party are celebrating their upcoming plans for college and their lives to come. Among the friends are twin sisters, Alison (the quiet one) and Lennon (the party girl), Margot (the Instagram star and rich kid), Dylan (the broody one), Johnny (the jock), and Riley (the poor trailer park one).

Alison and Lennon do not see eye to eye on things, and it irks Lennon that Alison doesn’t seem to want to express herself or go out into the great wide world and experience it. 

Dylan is in love with Alison, but she does not seem to reciprocate, so he has sex with Lennon instead. Alison discovers this and the sisters fight and there's drama when the local police chief turns up to the party, causing the friends to leave. As they drive away, they run someone over, the group is shocked to discover it's the other sister that they have accidentally killed. Choosing to pass the death off as a disappearance, they hide the body in the local cave, knowing that the tide will wash the body away.

Flash ahead to today, and the surviving sister returns home, meeting up with her dad before discovering that someone has written I Know What You Did Last Summer in lipstick on the mirror in the bedroom, as well as leaving the decapitated head of a goat in the closet.

The friends meet back up and, over the following episodes, discover that someone does know what they did and is clearly after some kind of revenge. Pretty soon, the deaths start to rack up, taking out central characters as well as some of the potential red herrings.

We get updates on the friends and how their lives have turned out over the past year. Johnny turns out to be gay, in a relationship with the soccer coach; Margot now has bodyguards who follow her everywhere as she uploads everything to her followers; Dylan is still dark and broody, and Riley still seems tied to the trailer park.

Alison and Lennon’s dad, it turns out, was aware of the deceit on the night of his daughter’s death, even helping to cover it up. He’s also screwing the police chief on the side.

Over the first four episodes, there is a lot of ground covered. Nearly all characters get some backstory and have skeletons in their closets. Timelines are moved around as we keep getting updates in flashbacks - nearly all to the night of the party - and a lot of the time the pace is affected negatively as we try to keep up.

The main twist regarding the sisters is given away very early on, and it is only through flashbacks that things start to become clearer, although there are some leaps to be made by the viewer in giving the series the slack it needs, as what should be pretty obvious to the friends just isn’t picked up on.

In all honesty, the source material and original are a lot tighter, whereas stretching the story, albeit with fresh ideas, over eight episodes of nearly 50 minutes apiece means the series just doesn’t feel that punchy. Even when there should be a sense of urgency with the murders, the story stops for a very quickly turned around funeral, and for a town that has lots of cameras, it seems strange that no one thinks to check the licence plate of the black pick up that is stalking one of the main characters.

The deaths are pretty brutal, and the whodunnit angle is made more interesting due to a larger cast where everyone has a secret. 

The main issue is that absolutely no character is anywhere near likeable. All have defects - as do we all - but there seems to be little to redeem these characters in the eyes of the viewer. Perhaps the only truly likeable character gets killed off first, leaving you scratching your head as to who you should actually root for. Our money is on the killer, at least until they are revealed!

We’ll stick with this series to the end, but the original still feels fresher and less bogged down.