I still have my tattered VHS of I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. I vividly remember renting the film at my local Longs Drugs and just keeping it after watching it numerous times, deeming it lost to the drugstore. The film epitomized everything I loved about thrillers: believability, suspense, and kids my age living lives way better than my own. I wanted to be their friend. I wanted to be stalked by a serial killer alongside my hot friends.
At that time, one of my favorite pen masters was Lois Duncan. Our local library was constantly out of her books, and the only reason why I got to read them was by signing up on the wait list and praying that someone returned their copy early. At that time, I didn’t know of Duncan’s own harrowing horror story and didn’t learn of it until years later. In 1992, Duncan released a non-fiction book called, Who Killed my Daughter, the storyline of the film was based on the murder of Duncan’s very own daughter. Kaitlyn was only 18 years old when she was she was shot in the face in New Mexico in 1989.
What followed in the years after, have been horrifying to say the least. Duncan devoted the rest of her life trying to piece together what happened to her daughter. Between police negligence and multi-million dollar insurance scams, Kaitlyn’s death raised more questions than answers. Before her death, which was in June of this year, Duncan suspected that Kaitlyn’s boyfriend, who was ten years older than her, was involved in a Vietnamese gang that ran a multi-million dollar insurance scam. After years of conducting her own investigation, she came to the conclusion that he was forcefully causing car accidents that would result in members of the gang receiving insurance compensation. Duncan believed that her daughter fared victim to this.
Five days after Kaitlyn’s death, her boyfriend tried to commit suicide by stabbing himself in the stomach. As a horror author, you can understand why this raised suspicion with Duncan, and she raced to the hospital to visit him and while under sedation, he admitted he knew who killed Kaitlyn. Sadly, Duncan would never unearth the truth and died at the age of 82, not knowing the full details of her daughter’s murder.
In 1973, Duncan penned a thriller called I Know What You Did Last Summer. The basis of the book was the foundation for the 1997 blockbuster hit penned by Kevin Willamson (SCREAM). Although the film received mixed reviews at the box office, the film became a cult hit spawning I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and I’LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.
The film follows the tale of 4 high school students, when on a doomed night, hit and kill a pedestrian. Fearful for what they had done, they dispose of the body into a nearby body of water, but not after the man gives up a fight. A year later, the group starts receiving menacing notes with the simple words of: I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. What ensues after is a madman hunting the four down in a retribution attempt of sorts. The films ends, obviously in prep of a sequel, with the assumption that the killer is still on the loose and and is still after those that managed to make it out alive. With a budget of $17 million and raking in over $125 million at the box office, this film was a relative success.
The movie has become a staple in most horror fans’ video collection and if you were a teen and if you don’t know what a VHS is, well, you probably weren’t a teen in the 90’s.