In order to best enjoy I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, you’re going to have to watch the first film in the series. While this is true of most sequels, slasher films generally circumvent this convention by having the only link between the films be the villain and possibly one or two survivors. You can usually go in completely blind to the franchise and still have a good time; after all, you’re only watching to watch characters die in gruesome and creative ways, right?

In this film’s case, you can’t do that if you want the full experience. No, you need to go watch I Know What You Did Last Summer, witness a slight bit of character development, learn about the main villain, and only then will you be fully prepared for this film. I say this, because I Still Know What You Did Last Summer doesn’t give you either of these two important parts, meaning that the characters will feel even more stock than they already are, you’ll have no idea why the villain is chasing them, and you’ll miss one or two really minor references that made me smile.

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer opens off by retconning the ending of the previous film. Apparently Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) has been having dreams about the man that she and a group of her friends killed one, (or is it now two?), summers ago. In these dreams, The Fisherman hunts her down and kills her, which is what is implied happened at the conclusion of the last film. The plot kicks in about 20 minutes in when Julie and her friend Kayla (Brandy Norwood) win a trip to the Bahamas by “correctly” answering that the capital of Brazil is “Rio De Janeiro”. It would seem that contests are easy to win even if you incorrectly guess the answer.

Anyway, they end up taking a trip to the Bahamas, arriving on July 3rd. Of course, the major event from the first movie happened on July 4th, so it would make sense for the killer to come back on that date once again. He does. First, he starts with Ray (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), who tries to make it to girlfriend Julie’s college to go on the trip, but is sent to hospital by The Fisherman while on the road. He doesn’t make it before they depart, but now that he’s aware that The Fisherman is still alive, he spends most of his time trying to get to their secluded island to save Julie and her friends. After delaying Ray, The Fisherman makes his way onto the island and begins picking off hotel staff one by one before beginning to target our teen leads.

And while all of this is going on, there is absolutely no character development whatsoever. This came as a shock to me, because there was some emphasis on this from the first film. It gave us reason to care about its characters so that we would care if they got gutted with a fish hook. This time, except for the two surviving characters from the previous film, we don’t get that. The secondary characters, (because the focus is definitely on Julie), could easily be replaced with mannikins, and we would struggle to notice. That’s true for all of them except for an uncredited Jack Black who gets somewhere around three scenes, (in what was definitely larger than a cameo role, so I don’t know why he went uncredited here), and steals every one of them.

Even if we don’t get the same character depth as in the last film, the atmosphere building is just as good, if not better. Given the fact that the majority of the film takes place on a secluded island during a potential hurricane, not a lot of work had to be put into making the scenery frightful. Adding in a mass murder on top of that, and you’ve got something that is very scary. I don’t generally like films that rely on jump scenes and false jump scenes to startle you, as that’s not really fear, but it works well enough here thanks to the atmosphere built around such scenes.

The smartest decision that was made when creating this movie was to have far less of Freddie Prinze Jr. After showing us in the first film that he has no emotional range, he doesn’t get nearly as many scenes as the rest of the cast. Some of them are just as bad, (Matthew Settle comes to mind here), but two of the replacements for killed-off characters actually seem fairly natural and felt real. Sure, they don’t take Julie as seriously as she probably should be taken, but can you really blame them? She claims a body is hanging from a closet at one point, but by the time she gets someone to see it, it’s gone. Maybe she’s just going crazy.

Once again, you have to look past implausibilities in order to really enjoy a film in this series. There was one that I couldn’t get past though. There’s one scene where Julie ends up going into a tanning booth, (for no reason other than to get Love Hewitt in a bathing suit, but I digress), and The Fisherman ends up locking her inside of it, while turning up the heat. Her friends eventually find her, and instead of, you know, turning off the machine, they proceed to smash it up with a weight. I understand that people don’t think rationally in situations like this, but there are four people there, and none of them thought logically at all.

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer is a small step down from its predecessor, but is by no means a terrible film. The atmosphere is still there, and largely removing Freddie Prinze Jr. was a step in the right direction, but without any character depth or development, I found it harder to care. There are more deaths in this installment, but they don’t add up to anything important. It’s death for the sake of a large body count, but I’d like to point out that restraint is what made the first film as good as it was.