For this installment of Phantom Limbs, we’ll be diving back into the I Know What You Did Last Summer franchise with filmmaker Mike Mendez, the director behind The Convent, The Gravedancers and Big Ass Spider!. As Mendez noted during a recent appearance on the Best Films Never Made podcast, he had pitched to write and direct a sequel to the original 1997 film, a project which eventually became Danny Cannon’s Bahamas-set I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. While Mendez notes that he remembers very little of his pitch, what he does recall makes for a fun and fascinating peek into an established genre filmmaker’s take on a well-known horror property.
During our brief but lively chat, Mendez touched on how he came to pitch on the project, what his take was, and why it ultimately didn’t happen.
“I’m not sure this is worthy of an article,” Mendez admits, laughing. “You tell me. This is a concept from 25 years ago that I barely remember, but I do remember going in there to pitch on I Know What You Did Last Summer 2: Electric Boogaloo. This was in 1997, roughly. It was right after I had had my first film [the intense horror/thriller Killers] at the Sundance Film Festival, and Scream was all the rage at that time … I Know What You Did Last Summer was coming out. So [the sequel] seemed like a logical choice to pitch, ’cause I was doing a lot of meetings and doing the rounds.”
Was Mendez familiar with Lois Duncan’s original 1973 source novel before tackling his take? “No, no. I mean, honestly, it was a reaction to the movie being a big hit. I was kind of against the PG-13 thing anyway. I mean, Scream obviously set a precedent, but it always annoyed me that so many others that followed went the PG-13 route. Slasher movies with no blood are like porn films with no sex. So I just don’t get it. I was old enough to have lived through the original 80s slasher craze. So the poppy, glossy kind of modernizations of them I wasn’t the biggest fan of, so I wanted to put in a little bit of the more old school kills and go a little more traditional and make them scary again, you know?”
Mendez notes that he wasn’t merely pitching to direct I Still Know…, but was hoping to write the project as well. “It was an original idea that I pitched. At the time, I was very much into making little rip reels and lookbooks … and I had also made a lookbook [for I Know 2]. I was very big into gimmicky stuff. So there was the hook that was on the front of the cover, and it pulled out to open and have the pitch inside.”
And what did Mendez’s pitch entail? “From what I remember, my concept was basically this: Jennifer Love Hewitt‘s character [Julie James] went off to college. It was playing off of that thing that Freddie Prinze Jr. [Ray] says to her in the first movie, something like ‘I’ll always be there, I’ll always be watching over you,’ something like that. It’s actually kind of creepy, the way he says it.”
Mendez reveals that this creepiness would have extended to the character’s portrayal in his sequel, as Ray would have become dangerously jealous of Julie being in college, meeting other guys. When the killings start up again, the audience would have been left to wonder if the culprit was Ben Willis, the Fisherman who terrorized Julie and her friends in the original film, or possibly Ray, driven to murder by his obsession with Julie. “It was playing on that idea of, ‘Is it the original killer? Or is it a jealous Freddie Prinze Jr.?’”
As the bodies begin piling up and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” notes are flying about, Julie struggles with trusting the man she loves, realizing he may very well be the killer this time around. As the story would have barreled toward its conclusion, a shocking twist would have unfolded: Ben Willis has returned as the villainous Fisherman…but Ray has been killing Julie’s friends as well. “So there are two Fisherman killers that are both trying to kill Julie,” Mendez laughs.
The climax to this surprising slasher would have paid homage to another iconic slasher franchise as well, Mendez reveals. “It ends in kind of an homage to Child’s Play 3, in a big funhouse with both killers trying to get her. But they also hate each other, so the killers would be popping up, trying to fight each other, as well as still trying to get her. I wanted to make it a big, zany setpiece that had lots of scares. I do remember making a video reel of it … using lots of clips from The Funhouse and Childs Play 3.”
Mendez also notes that he’s certain he would have concluded his sequel with the possibility of having even more follow-ups, noting that he remembers Ray dying and Ben Willis escaping to stalk Julie another day. “I’m a child of the 80s! I know that death is not the end. It’s always designed for the killer to jump out at the end.
“So that was the idea. The bodies would rise, there would be a college slasher element, there would be two killers, there would be a funhouse involved, it would be much more fun. Just something a little different and more amped than the first one. But fuck it, what do I know? They sent them to the Bahamas!”
So ultimately, what happened with Mendez’s I Know What You Did Last Summer 2 (as the filmmaker remembers it being officially referred to)? “I don’t think it went very far. I think it was rejected immediately. Again, how can I beat the Bahamas and Jack Black in dreadlocks?”
A recurring theme with recent Phantom Limbs articles is filmmakers and showrunners never being given a concrete “No” from studios when their projects don’t move forward. Was this Mendez’s experience as well? “You know, you go in, you do your pitch, and then you don’t hear anything. Then months later, they announce so-and-so is directing and you go, ‘Oh. I guess I didn’t get it.’”
Looking back on his brief brush with the franchise, Mendez provides his final thoughts on his I Know 2 pitch. “I barely spent any time on it. It was a failed pitch of me trying to get a gig that I didn’t get. There are hundreds of those, and I’m sure hundreds on a daily basis that happen in Hollywood. So there’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary on this one. I gave my pitch, for whatever reason they didn’t like it, and they [made the film they did].
“I do have a bloodlust, so I’m sure [his take] would’ve been filled with lots of kills, and I know it would’ve been geared towards being more fun and scarier than the first, so that’s all I can say. It’s not something I cry myself to sleep over going, ‘Man, if only I had done that I Know What You Did Last Summer sequel.’”
Very special thanks to Mike Mendez for his time and insights.
This has been Phantom Limbs, a recurring feature which takes a look at intended yet unproduced horror sequels and remakes – extensions to genre films we love, appendages to horror franchises that we adore – that were sadly lopped off before making it beyond the planning stages. Here, we chat with the creators of these unmade extremities to gain their unique insight into these follow-ups that never were, with the discussions standing as hopefully illuminating but undoubtedly painful reminders of what might have been.