I Know What You Did Last Summer has more than a nod to Jaws

While “Jaws” wasn’t necessarily meant to be the summer movie of choice.Spielberg and company made sure to emphasize the seasonal trappings within the film, if only to up the suspense stakes. After all, a killer shark isn’t all that intimidating if it doesn’t have a buffet to go to, so setting “Jaws” on a Fourth of July weekend with hundreds of tourists swimming served the story best. Yet it undeniably provided audiences with a singularly unsettling atmosphere, the idea that a happy, carefree time could be quickly followed by a horrific tragedy.

This atmosphere is at the heart of “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” in which a group of teenagers graduating from high school with their whole lives ahead of them accidentally kill a pedestrian while driving, leading them to make the fateful decision to cover it up and keep it a secret. Being set in North Carolina in the summer, the film should have had some of the attributes of the season. Yet Gillespie goes the extra mile, setting the film around the Fourth of July in a small fishing town, depicting celebratory activities that contrast with the terror the teenagers face when they are attacked by a mysterious blackmailer. Speaking to Digital Spy in 2017, Gillespie explained how intentional the Jaws connections were:

” […] It’s set in a seaside town and I wanted to have that vibe. So there’s a lot of things that are nods to “Jaws”; Fourth of July parades, all that stuff. We amped it up with a Croaker Festival. Gary Wissner designed these big fish-shaped boats, fish-shaped hats. We got a lot of local high school bands to march for the festival. We went all out with that! I wanted the waterfront to have a New England feel, and “Jaws” was just that.”

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