DVD - Image B- Sound C+ (Remixes)/B (Mono) Extras A
BD - Image B+ Sound B Extras A-
starring James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, Lisa Blount
screenplay by Ronald Shusett and Dan O'Bannon
directed by Gary A. Sherman
KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER
DVD|BD - Image A- Sound A Extras A-
starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze, Jr.
screenplay by Kevin Williamson, based on the novel by Lois Duncan
directed by Jim Gillespie
by Bill Chambers SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. Gary A. Sherman's Dead & Buried and Jim Gillespie's I Know What You Did Last Summer, released theatrically fourteen years apart, together demonstrate that the more the horror genre stays the same, the more it changes. Each of these B-movies resorts to similar cheap tricks (first and foremost a coastal setting (the atmospheric equivalent of a non-perishable in horror)) and traffics in pessimism, yet one is genuinely hopeless and the other is trendily nihilistic--karo syrup as late-Nineties fashion accessory. A great gulf stands between the sensibilities of the two pictures that's unearthed by drawing other such subtle distinctions: one is cruel, the other callous; one is about death, the other about killing; one is sexy, the other exploitive; and so on and so forth. Virtually indescribable to modern audiences despite its familiar elements, Dead & Buried is a Darwinian fossil of the horror cinema, whose DNA has been perverted by the progressive commercialization of the culture and weakening of the intellectual position. Simplified: Current scare flicks still sometimes enjoy provocative subtext (like the recent Freddy Vs. Jason); more often, they die on the vine from WB-itis.
Potter's Bluff's new sheriff, Dan Gillis (James Farentino, a small-screen actor with unsung charisma), finds the charred photographer alive in an overturned automobile. Dan doesn't trust the accident scene, its arranged quality, and yet, even when subsequent corpses turn up, the local coroner (Jack Albertson ("The Man" in TV's "Chico and the Man"), playing against type) discourages an investigation, while the locals are a largely apathetic bunch. Dan's problem, of course, is that he's a relative stranger in xenophobic New England, and that his schoolteacher wife (Flash Gordon's Melody Anderson, the star who never was) has a rational explanation for every strange piece of evidence he acquires--including the trinkets for conducting witchcraft he unearths in her drawer.
A synthesis of Stephen King (the cozy seaside town with an underbelly) and H.P. Lovecraft (Dan's tragic curiosity, for starters) not unlike John Carpenter's more metaphysical The Fog from the year before, Dead & Buried is effectively bleak but not depressing, a throwback to "The Twilight Zone"'s most cynical entries as much as anything else. Almost all of the film's strengths and weaknesses can be traced back to the screenplay by Alien authors Ronald Shusett and Dan O'Bannon, a thing of integrity and illogic in equal measure that bears the stretchmarks of a concept pinned at both ends to fill the length of a feature. By the time we're onto Dead & Buried, impatience sets in, and yet having our assumption that the film will conclude a certain way proved correct is satisfying rather than disappointing, since it isn't followed by the even more anticipated Hollywood denouement. While Sherman's direction is kind of oafish (though who knows how much of this is attributable to the fact that the film's comedic aspects were toned down by its financiers in post-production, leaving what must have been sizable gaps in approach), with montage simply not his forte (he bungles a chase episode involving a family taking a detour through Potter's Bluff), he derives performances from his cast that elevate wafer-thin characterizations and stages the climax brilliantly, placing an unexpected emphasis on the moving image.
Surrounded by projections of demented home movies, Dan realizes that his eyes will lie to him but the camera won't; Dan screams because truth has no real place in the cinema--and genre filmmaking would appear to be getting increasingly disingenuous. I Know What You Did Last Summer is ostensibly as forlorn as Dead & Buried, minus any conviction: the cast is too cute and the visuals are too slick, creating a comfort zone that inhibits all but the most Pavlovian of anxieties. The film's moral ugliness (four teens--our heroes--drown the man they accidentally hit with their car on the eve of graduation and are stalked one year later by an unidentified witness) is meanwhile placidly circumvented by the smug glamour of cast members Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze, Jr., and Ryan Phillippe. Contrary to accepted belief, Kevin Williamson adapted Lois Duncan's novel I Know What You Did Last Summer after writing the film with which he made first contact with the zeitgeist, Scream, and his voice is muffled here; I Know What You Did Last Summer disappointed me way back when because it didn't deconstruct itself like Scream, but the larger issue is that too many years of irony and Britney Spears and V-chips and CGI and the purification of Times Square have condemned the grindhouse, reducing the horror picture to its superficialities.
Nicknamed "the Criterion of Euro sleaze" by Tim Lucas in the current issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG, Blue Underground has quickly earned a stellar reputation for their lavish DVD treatments of misfit movies. Dead & Buried: Limited Edition is the first title we've received from the studio, and if it's a typical effort, consider us tantalized--the unfortunate caveat where Dead & Buried is concerned that its video and audio are mediocre at best. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks dingy beyond the severe diffusion that was applied to daylight and nighttime scenes alike. In his commentary with Blue Underground's David Gregory (acting as an interviewer), director of photography Steven Poster (Donnie Darko) says that the driving idea behind the film's haze was to force audiences to pay close attention to the images, but with TV's decreased resolution, the gimmick almost thwarts an active viewership. Dead & Buried's soundtrack is offered in its original mono as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, DTS-ES 6.1, and Dolby Surround remixes, and I advise thee without hesitation to stick with the mono configuration. The hissy multichannel options are disorienting for all the wrong reasons, harsh on the ears and recklessly favouring ostentatiousness over finesse.
Disc One of this two-platter set contains two Dead & Buried trailers and two commentaries, in addition to the abovementioned yakker with Poster. Gregory, whose casual promptings steer the conversation towards controversy and away from self-analysis, arguably holds the forthcoming Sherman back: when Sherman says he wanted to eliminate the colour red from the film, Gregory feigns little interest in artistic process, instead wanting to know why the gambit failed. (Those damn creditors and their thirst for blood, that's why.) Though the two lines of questioning are equally valid, it would be nice to hear Sherman talk his way out of some high-falutin' aesthetic bullshit. On the plus side, Sherman is especially good at, in his words, "Monday-morning quarterbacking" (his observation that a big star should've played the photographer to really hammer home the surprise is one of those head-slapping revelations for which the phrase "hindsight is 20/20" was invented), and his survey of post-production battles is heartbreaking but done with levity and taste--a major disappointment of this DVD is Blue Underground's failure to dig up or reassemble the director's cut. Because Gregory is a common denominator, there's a lot of overlap between the three yak-tracks, screenwriter Ronald Shusett (joined by unobtrusive actress Linda Turley) and Poster mainly deepening Sherman's perspective with comments that only a screenwriter and a cinematographer, respectively, would make.
Disc Two features a trio of entertaining and refreshingly low-key featurettes. "Stan Winston's Dead & Buried EFX" (18 mins.) finds the make-up maestro reflecting on what was his breakthrough in the business through rose-tinted glasses. You don't quite believe Sherman when he reveals that the victim in the infamous hospital sequence is a fully articulated dummy until Winston describes the blood, sweat, and tears that were invested in its construction. In "Robert Englund: An Early Work of Horror" (12 mins.), it is glaringly apparent that the erstwhile Freddy is struggling to kill time talking about a movie he was barely in: he is the most garrulous while reporting the crush he had on Blount. Last but not least, the ultra-weird "Dan O'Bannon: Crafting Fear" (14 mins.) sees O'Bannon--who, dressed like Tom Wolfe, is unrecognizable from his shaggy Dark Star days--protesting his screen credit for Dead & Buried (he lent his name to the production only to help Shusett obtain funding, although he did polish the script) and becoming disturbingly preoccupied with the subject of eye torture. A gallery of Poster's luscious location stills--taken from his first stay in Mendocino, CA, where the film was shot--rounds out the second DVD. Dead & Buried is packaged in a gatefold-sleeve combo, tucked inside of which is a postcard-sized reproduction of the picture's striking Japanese one-sheet.
Columbia Tri-Star's Special Edition reissue of I Know What You Did Last Summer recycles the previous disc's blue-ribbon 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer at a higher bitrate and dispenses with its pan-and-scan alternative to accommodate bonus material. Also returning is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of appropriate sting and complexity--were it only at the service of less banal frights. First and foremost among the extras is Gillespie's justifiably acclaimed short film Joyride (10 mins.), advertised as "Die Hard in a trunk." Joyride--presented in 2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen--brought Gillespie to Hollywood's attention after it screened at Telluride for good reason, and in his snappy commentary for the piece, Gillespie suggests the Scottish Robert Rodriguez, spilling the beans on his cost-shearing methods as if lecturing aspiring filmmakers. His commentary for I Know What You Did Last Summer proper reunites him with editor Steve Mirkovich, the latter a bit too obsequious as he pumps Gillespie for information (after all, Mirkovich had a job on the film, too), but the two manage to avoid narrating the movie for its duration, always a blessed miracle in itself.
"Now I Know What You Did Last Summer" (27 mins.) is a droll retrospective making-of from Michael Gillis. Present and accounted for are actresses Hewitt and Anne Heche, Gillespie, the ever-delightful Williamson, and producers Eric Feig and Stokely Chaffin, a handsome broad with a mouth that runs on autopilot to our everlasting amusement. Chaffin completely misconstrues Gillespie's eccentric staging in remembering the scene in which Hewitt's character goes to visit Heche's ("She's there, like, chopping up birds, like, what job is this?"--um, Heche is gutting what the rest of us call "fish"), for instance, and gives the impression that she optioned Duncan's book in fifth grade! Marry me, Stokely, in other words. Hewitt, however, wins the Dumbest Quote Award: "I promised my grandmother I would never die in a movie"--she and Angie "I Promised My Grandmother I'd Never Pose Nude" Everhart ought to compare notes: I know there was an invalidating sequel, but isn't the implication of I Know What You Did Last Summer's epilogue that Julie bites it? The video for Kula Shaker's "Hush," filmographies for Gillespie, Williamson, and the film's four above-the-title stars, and trailers for I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Darkness Falls, Jawbreaker, and Urban Legend finish off the SE, available individually or in a "deluxe" 2-pack with I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Originally published: September 27, 2003.
Blue Underground and Sony dip into their back catalogues to bring Dead & Buried and I Know What You Did Last Summer, respectively, to Blu-ray in presentations that nicely improve on their standard-def counterparts. Dead & Buried is a naturally grainy- and sometimes funky-looking film, but sequences like the fog-enshrouded evening car chase are more engaging in HD as a consequence of increased fine/shadow detail and a newfound absence of compression artifacts. Colours are punchier as well. Curiously, a subtle crosshatch pattern is superimposed over the screen during the opening freeze-frame, at the start of chapter 3, and in other instances where light hits the lens just so; I suspect the upgrade to 1080p has brought into relief some kind of scrim that's acting as a diffusion filter. Alas, the BD does not include an "original mono" listening option, but the DTS remix--beefed up to 7.1 Master Lossless Audio--sounds okay here, a bit harsh but preferable to the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and EX options, which are less transparent and tend to reduce what little bass there is to sludge. (Too, captions were generously added for the hearing-impaired, along with subtitles in French and Spanish.) Extras are identical to those of the Limited Edition DVD, with the featurettes preserved in 16x9 SD, although the platter drops the photo gallery and I missed the LE's splashy packaging. No postcard-size reproduction of the film's Japanese poster for Blu-ray owners, sad emoticon.
Likewise a straightforward port of the film's most loaded DVD release, right down to an obviously-recycled master, the BD debut of I Know What You Did Last Summer ought to please fans. This is a true 'scope title, thus a certain softness is to be expected, while the use of anamorphic lenses is a likelier culprit for the limited grain than DVNR. The biggest improvement the 2.40:1, 1080p transfer boasts is in the area of depth--this is a multifaceted image that truly feels "projected" as you're watching it, though if I'm being scrupulous, flesh tones have that cake-frosting appearance that plagues a lot of contemporaneous Sony output, so maybe I Know What You Did Last Summer could've benefited from a more current pass through the telecine. An accompanying 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track, downmixed by my receiver, is, to a greater degree than its DD 5.1 precursor, an aggressive and aggressively-discrete treat from beginning to end, however ultimately hoary is the film's joybuzzer approach to sound design. Sadly, Jim Gillespie's short film has not been bumped up to HiDef, but at least it survived the transition to next-gen, as did the commentary, featurette, and music video. (I'd've hated to lose those priceless remarks from Stokely Chaffin.) The trailer for I Know What You Did Last Summer (SD--apparently only Paramount sees the value of remastering their old teasers in HD) rounds out the special features; 1080p previews for 21 and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder cue up on startup. Originally published: January 22, 2009.