October 4th, 2023
MOVIE: TOTALLY KILLER
STARRING: KIERNAN SHIPKA, JULIE BOWEN, LOCHLYN MUNRO, OLIVIA HOLT
DIRECTED BY: NAHNATCHKA KHAN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
This is a Totally Killer review. I’m talking about the newest horror-comedy on Amazon Prime, which follows in the path of films such as Happy Death Day, Happy Death Day 2U, and more recently Freaky. It’s a subgenre of horror that involves teenagers or college kids, a dash of the supernatural, and a whole lot of slashing. For Totally Killer, it will feel like something we’ve seen before, but it hits just the right amount of laughs and still keeps the spirit of an 80s high school slasher. Totally Killer is totally my jam.
The hero is Jamie Hughes (Kiernan Shipka), a high school junior who’s not excited about Halloween the way her parents Pam (Julie Bowen) and Blake (Lochlyn Munro) want her to be. They live in a small town, where the history of “The Sweet-Sixteen Killer” claimed the lives of three high school girls. It’s been almost 40 years and now the killer has returned, this time to claim the life of Jamie’s mom. In her pursuit to find out who this masked killer is, she discovers her friend Amelia (Kelcey Mawema) still has her science fair time machine, and when the killer attacks, it accidentally sends Jamie to 1987, back in high school with her younger mom (Olivia Holt), and now hoping to stop the original killer before they can do it all again in 2023.
What makes Totally Killer so charming is how it embraces its shortcomings, aware of the silliness in a time travel premise, often referencing Back to the Future, and still going forward in a manner of asking, “What if Marty McFly had to deal with the Ghostface killer instead of Biff?” The screenplay, written by David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo, balances the 80s references with deadpan humor from Jamie’s jaded Gen Z attitude. The laughs arrive at how harsh it can be when Jamie realizes her mom was a stuck-up teen and in the process how she must convince others that she’s from the future to stop the killer.
The flaws exist in what can look like at times a minor backlot production. Director Nahnatchka Khan clearly uses her budget in the proper spots, such as a big high school party that leaves a kid slashed up on a water bed, or making sure the slasher part rises above the cheesy decor. The show often has a PBS kids show vibe, but Khan and her team take an old sitcom look and make the best of it. It also helps when you have the incredibly talented Shipka. She fits the bill of a confident horror character, willing to seek out the masked assailant, while stuck in the laid-back 80s, with her attentive 2023 way of seeing the world. The fun is witnessing how Jamie rolls with it and Khan doesn’t think less of us for buying in.
On the surface, Totally Killer might feel slight and following too close to the common themes of recent slashers mixed with other genres. Instead of trying to overcomplicate things the way a Happy Death Day does, Khan is aware that time travel movies always have their gaps, so she fills them in with a lighter- yet still equally bloody- version of Scream VI. It’s the perfect slasher film mixed with science fiction. Totally Killer delivers a Totally cool time.
TOTALLY KILLER IS ON AMAZON PRIME THIS FRIDAY OCTOBER 6TH, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady