There’s something special about late 90’s horror films. Maybe it’s the alternative rock soundtrack. Or perhaps it’s the unflattering jeans on beautiful girls. Whatever it is, the post-Scream slasher era is a fun one. I’ve always been jealous that I wasn’t alive when some of my favorite slashers hit the cinemas. I like to imagine that my nostalgic feeling when revisiting IKWYDLS is similar to the warm, cozy feeling others get when re-watching Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter or April Fool’s Day. Just like those films, IKWYDLS treads familiar territory, but nevertheless provides interest to the jaded slasher fan.
Featuring the best-looking teenagers to ever grace a small North California…err Carolina town, IKWYDLS is the ideal snapshot of 1997. With Jennifer Love Hewitt as the smart final girl who dresses like a librarian and Sarah Michelle Gellar as the blonde bombshell best friend, male audiences will find a pleasant sight in nearly every frame of the film. And for the teenage girls, good ol’ Freddy Prince Jr. as the humble fisherman boyfriend and Ryan Phillippe as the jock bad boy round out the principle cast. You all know the drill: four friends accidentally run over a dude wearing fishing boots and dump the body. One year later, some dude in a slicker is chasing after them with a hook in hand. But remember, this was penned by the great Kevin Williamson of Scream fame (and don’t forget Dawson’s Creek-blarg!). The plot may be recycled, but the details are carried out surprisingly well, as IKWYDLS takes itself seriously and so does the audience.
"Never tell anyone about Ghost Whisperer, ok?"
The dialogue is well written, the characters are kind of interesting, and the story is infused with some good twists. Williamson’s words bring the occasional chuckle. My personal favorite being a response to Helen’s hair being chopped off in the night--“Why did he make coleslaw on Helen’s head?” Of course, Williamson is also good at making us feel for the characters, even when they’ve done some bad things. Some of my favorite moments are when Julie returns home after a year to discover that everyone’s high school dreams have fallen apart. Not only is this a depressing portrait of a common reality, but it’s also a subtle way to demonstrate the toll that the “accident” had on all the characters. Unlike similar prank-gone-wrong/accident slashers, guilt over the mistake is more deeply felt. Particularly revealing is the scene in which Julie and Helen visit David’s (the guy they think they killed) sister and she talks about how things haven’t been the same since he died. With decent actors (hey—Anne Heche!) and good writing, scenes like this make IKWYDLS a solid film.
The stars of the show...
When it comes to the actual horror elements of IKWYDLS, the film is a little weak. Things are suspenseful, sure, but never scary. IKWYDLS is about as generic as they come in terms of chase sequences and death scenes. There is very little gore, but that’s not an entirely bad thing. The off-screen deaths and non-direct angles actually work at times, especially Helen’s death at the parade. If not for language and a few seconds of additional gore, this movie could have easily secured a PG-13 rating. It’s actually surprising that this incredibly bankable movie ended up with an R. If it was made today, it probably would be trimmed down for wider audiences.
All in all, IKWYDLS isn’t a fantastic movie, but it’s not bad at all. For every great moment, there are about five superficial, uninteresting ones. Still, it’s a fun one to revisit every now and then. I’m glad I did. Now time to go watch Urban Legend.