• I Know What You Did Last Summer/When a Stranger Calls

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: March 18, 2014
    Directors: Jim Gillespie/Simon West
    Casts: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Anne Heche/Camilla Belle, Tommy Flanagan, Katie Cassidy, Clark Gregg, Tessa Thompson
    Years: 1997/2006
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    I Know What You Did Last Summer: A group of drunk high school students (it’s true) on their way home from a beach party run down and kill a man as he crosses the street. They get rid of his body and agree never to talk about the incident again. But a year later, the four, now no longer in high school, each receive a note stating “I know what you did last summer.” In due course, a hook-handed killer sporting an outfit swiped from a Gorton’s fish-sticks box starts picking them off one by one.

    Made in the wake of Dimension’s sleeper hit Scream (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer attempts the same sort of self-referential humor as its precursor. No surprise there, since both films were written by the same man, Kevin Williamson (though the first was an original tale and the latter was based on a novel by young adult author Lois Duncan). While the knowing nods to horror chestnuts may have seemed cheeky and fun in Scream, their rehash in I Know results in the feeling that Williamson dropped the screenplay and the irony fell out. The characters are walking, talking clichés, and the teenybopper self-awareness that marked Williamson’s earlier effort falls flat the second time around. Though the writer’s interest in all things teenage has led him to a successful career in television, where he created Dawson’s Creek, The Wasteland, Hidden Palms, and The Following and developed The Vampire Diaries, his work has long since acquired an air of sameness. What was once an interesting approach has simply been revisited too many times, beginning with I Know What You Did Last Summer.

    The film received mixed reviews from critics at the time of its release, but that didn’t stop it from becoming one of the biggest horror hits of the 1990s. Despite the silly dialogue they’re often expected to spout, the actors do well by their roles, particularly the leads—Jennifer love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze, Jr.—though it’s Gellar who really shines. Fresh from her hit series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she quickly proved she had what it took to become a big-screen star, leading to the best performance of her career in The Grudge (2004), Takashi Shimizu’s English-friendly remake of Ju-on (2002). Jim Gillespie’s direction is efficient, and the film is fast-paced despite innumerable, nonsensical plot holes. In other words, the whole affair is entertaining despite Williamson’s screenplay.

    When a Stranger Calls: A babysitter is murdered. Meanwhile, across town, spoiled brat Jill is being unfairly forced to pay for her exorbitant monthly phone bill by working as a sitter for a wealthy couple’s children. A former friend who had an affair with Jill’s boyfriend is also killed, after which (yikes) Jill herself becomes a target. While watching her wards in their lavish home, she receives threatening phone calls, and when she has them traced, she learns that they’re coming from inside the house! (This would be a spoiler, but hey, the trailer gives it away!)

    Not so much a remake of the 1979 film of the same name as an excuse to recycle the line “Have you checked the children?”, this PG-13 When a Strange Calls pales in comparison to its R-rated predecessor, which one might not have thought possible. The trailer gives away its one potentially decent scare, and director Simon West has no idea how to keep the film moving. It’s slow and dull, with acting that could have been beamed in from any of the CW’s young twenty-something soaps. In fact, CW star Katie Cassidy—daughter of David and niece of Shaun—plays Jill’s adulterous friend, offering one of the film’s better performances. There’s little action, less blood, and no suspense. Imagine torture porn for 12-year-olds, and you’ll have the idea.


    Both films are presented in standard definition 480p and anamorphic widescreen. I Know What You Did Last Summer has an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, while When a Stranger Calls has an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Both films look about the same in terms of detail (there’s plenty of it), while I Know You Did Last Summer looks slightly better in terms of color presentation. Both films contain a slight layer of compression noise and minor ghosting in a few spots. Black levels are stable, though lighter areas of the frame sometimes have an issue with jagged edges. These problems are never too problematic, and for what it’s worth, getting two films for the price of one is a bargain.

    Audio on both features is Dolby Digital 2.0. Sound is crisp and clean with no discernible issues. There are no subtitles options, so if you’re deaf or hearing impaired, you’re shit out of luck (or, arguably, getting off easy).

    The set contains no extras. The only menu option allows you to choose which film you wish to view, and each film is divided into a measly four chapters, the last of which is for the closing credits (the fifth takes viewers back to the menu screen)..

    The Final Word:

    Of the two films contained in this Mill Creek Entertainment release, I Know What You Did Last Summer is the better production. It moves quickly and has reasonably solid performances. When a Stranger Calls, on the other hand, stands out even among boring films as a snooze. Thankfully, Mill Creek’s double feature is a budget release that can be found in dump bins everywhere for five bucks or less. If you pick it up, do so for I Know What You Did Last Summer and consider When a Stranger Calls a freebie; you’ll feel better that way.