Every Halloween, I find myself curled up on my couch, indulging in some “scary” movies. But as I’ve grown older, my tolerance for horror has diminished. I’ve become quite the scaredy-cat. However, there are a few films that I’m willing to watch, like the Leprechaun series, the Scream trilogy, and of course, “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”
But there’s something that has always bothered me about this movie: the unfair treatment of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character, Helen. In a world where women are often pitted against each other, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” presents us with Julie and Helen, friends constantly at odds with each other. One is the innocent brunette, while the other is the supposed dumb, slutty blonde.
Helen, played by Gellar, deserved better. She was more than just a trope, a disposable character who always meets a deadly fate in slasher flicks. The Helen’s of the slasher world should have the chance to be the final girl.
We first meet Helen as she competes in a beauty pageant, immediately portrayed as vapid and less genuine compared to her friend Julie. But that pageant was a means to an end for Helen. She knew that having some accolades to her name would help her audition for acting roles in New York. There was cunning behind her beauty.
When tragedy strikes and the teens make a bad decision to hide a body, Helen, along with Julie and the others, was involved. But she shows remorse. Her dream of becoming an actor in New York is shattered because she can’t bear the guilt. When we see her again the following summer, she has transformed into a quiet, introspective person, coping with the aftermath of their actions.
But Julie is the one we’re supposed to sympathize with? Just because she stops brushing her hair and has dark circles under her eyes? Grief is not a zero-sum game. Helen’s suffering should be acknowledged too.
Yes, people have to die in slasher flicks, but did it have to be Helen? She was resourceful, quick-witted, and fought like hell to survive. She deserved a chance to live just as much as Julie did.
I know this movie is over 20 years old now, but I will continue to advocate for Helen’s justice. She deserved better than to be written off according to slasher flick rules.
So, here’s to Helen and the audience who recognized her worth. Justice for Helen!