The Prime Video original film offers just the right amount of spills, thrills, sci-fi, and dark humour to keep one invested in its story
Story: The small town of Vernon comes to a standstill after Pam Hughes, a well-respected member of the society, is brutally murdered on Halloween – 35 years to the day after three of her friends were murdered with the same modus operandi. It is speculated that the Sweet Sixteen Killer from 1987 has returned to wreak havoc in the town. Pam’s daughter, Jamie, comes face-to-face with the killer and is accidentally sent back in time to 1987, just in time to prevent the murders from happening.
Review: The slasher comedy is a genre that has gained significant popularity in recent years, with several films satirising the age of social media and Gen Z. Totally Killer adopts a similar template, but has added its own unique spin to the genre. It has paid homage to Back to the Future, arguably one of the greatest films of all time, as well as Scream, Halloween, and other teen slasher films. And the result is a pleasantly surprising entertainer elevated by its dark yet raunchy comedy. The film obviously isn’t without a few glaring plot holes, but the narrative is self-aware of its surreal set pieces and has used them to its advantage.
Popular slasher films have often toyed with the idea that their primary antagonist is almost indestructible – often leaning on a hint of supernatural or sci-fi storytelling. However, Totally Killer has fully embraced its sci-fi aesthetic, whilst also tapping into the ‘80s America retro obsession that has taken over film and TV since Stranger Things. However, unlike previous recreations of the ‘80s, Totally Killer does not delve too much into ‘80s nostalgia, instead, it scrutinises an era that failed to acknowledge its problematic socio-political norms. It is achieved through satire and dark humour, and it therefore blends well with the film’s overall story.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina star Kiernan Shipka plays the role of the lead star Jamie. While she certainly lacks the same charisma as Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly in Back to the Future, she perfectly captures the unfairly stereotyped self-righteous and indifferent demeanour of Gen Z teenagers. She is also able to convey the clash of ideological differences between ‘80s teenagers and teenagers from the 2020s. Shipka also has excellent chemistry with her mother’s younger self, played by Olivia Holt. Much like how Marty McFly and his father George bond in Back to the Future, Jamie and Pam quickly become friends, despite being polar opposites. The older version of Pam is played by the Emmy Award-winning star of Modern Family, Julie Bowen. And similar to her turn as Claire Dunphy in the hit comedy series, Bowen essays the role of a once-popular teenager who has become an overprotective mother, who also happens to love Halloween – which is possibly a nod at Modern Family.
Despite being a slasher film, Totally Killer has toned down its violence and gore, which is surprising considering recent teen slashers such as Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy achieved an excellent balance between storytelling and gore. But of course, making the film a little less ‘bloody’ makes the Nahnatchka Khan directorial more accessible to a wider demographic. And like almost every story about time travel there are a few inconsistencies in the logic behind time travel within the narrative. In Totally Killer, the plot holes pertaining to time travel become more noticeable towards the final scenes.
Verdict: Totally Killer is the perfect weekend popcorn film. It offers just the right amount of spills, thrills, sci-fi, mystery and dark humour to keep one invested in its story. While there are several narrative inconsistencies, plot holes, and a few underdeveloped characters in the film, it manages to maintain its entertainment value from start to finish.