Totally Killer is Totally Rad: A Comedy Slasher With a Twist!

by: 
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Iain McParland
| October 25, 2023
hello world!

It’s spooky season, so you know what that means! Horror, slashers, murder, and mayhem. Emphasis on the word mayhem with Totally Killer

Totally Killer, the new film from acclaimed horror studio Blumhouse, was released on Amazon Prime Video on October 6th. It’s a black comedy slasher film, similar in tone to movies like Happy Death Day and The Final Girls. When the Sweet 16 Killer returns after 35 years to kill her mother, teen Jamie (Kiernan Shipka) finds herself transported back in time to 1987, before the original murders occurred. Will she be able to negotiate the culture of the 1980s and stop the psycho who will murder her mom? 

Let’s get this out of the way from the get-go. This is a comedy, and it’s meant to be silly. If you’re looking for a tense, intellectual horror like The Babadook, then give this a miss. But, if you’re into a fun popcorn slasher movie, then this could be your jam. 

It’s certainly mine!

Story

The quiet town of Vernon is sleepy and boring, except for that one time in 1987 when a masked man murdered three girls on their sixteenth birthdays. The Sweet 16 Killer was never caught or even identified, but he just… stopped. After the killer returns to murder the last remaining girl from the original victims’ friend group, her daughter becomes the next target. 

An abandoned theme park chase later, daughter Jamie is all but done for. That is, until she is transported back in time to 1987, days before the first murders. What the absolute frack?! Yes, that’s right! It’s a time-travel movie!

Jamie and her stereotypical Mean Girl mother (Olivia Holt) resolve to stop the Sweet 16 Killer and change the future! Hopefully, for the better!

Five people wearing Sweet 16 Killer masks
Creepy masks, my dudes

Slasher Genre

This film is full of genre tropes, but they add to the vibe, parodying rather than being derivative. Looking for dumb teens throwing house parties while they’re in danger? We got you. People traveling to secluded locations instead of the relative safety of crowds? Yep. A near-indestructible, relentless, super-human killer? Woo! That’s a hat trick.

I love the slasher genre, and this one borrows from the best. Although the death count is relatively low, the killings feel meaningful. It’s all about the build; waiting for the next kill is more tense than when the killer is on-screen. As most of these killings happened in the past, it takes some of the mystery out of the question: “Who’s gonna bite the bullet next?” But it may not be that simple, as with all time-traveling movie shenanigans. 

Totally Killer doesn’t, like, totally revolutionize the slasher genre, but it didn’t have to. As masked killer movies go, it’s a fun romp. 

Time Travel

Science fiction nerds! In the comments below, please tell me how Totally Killer made no sense in terms of the rules of time travel! I know, I know. Ssh ssh ssh, calm down. It’s all going to be ok. 

Jamie looks shocked, dressed in a navy blue top and vintage white jacket. Pam screams dressed in a white dress. Blood stains the photos on the wall on the left of the picture
Are you a screamer or a stunned silence kinda gal?

Yes, there are plot holes the size of Clayton Ravine. The rules established early on are a way to explain why Kiernan Shipka’s character is not poofed into thin air by causality. Apparently, when you change the past, it affects the future, but you retain the faint memory of what was once so. And if you change it enough that, for example, a person no longer exists in the future, then it would only matter when you travel Back to the Future

No fading polaroids, no glitching. Just a hearty, “Oh, I guess what I thought was real ten seconds ago actually isn’t,” and “time occurs in parallel.” It’s odd, but at least the rules are explained throughout. Clarity is key.

As for the actual time travel, I’m happy with the portrayal of the 1980s. The fish-out-of-water trope really works for a Gen Z kid in an un-politically correct world. I’m not sure if the point was to show how terrible the 80s were or how the holier-than-thou youth of today don’t understand the concept of period context, but it made for hilarious viewing. 

It also shows how much has changed in the 35 years between 1987 and present day. For example, Jamie emerged from a car driven by an avid smoker, coughing and spluttering as she exited the clouded automobile. People never batted an eyelid at drivers chain-smoking their way down the road, barely able to see the steering wheel in front of them. It’s freaking dangerous!

The soundtrack of the 80s hits damn hard, a throwback to the fantastic pioneers of the slasher genre. When I hear the psychedelic sounds of synthwave, I think of films like Halloween and Friday the 13th. For a slasher film to evoke those memories is smart, a nod to the forefathers. Excellently done.

Summary

Totally Killer written across the image of a suburban house lined with trees
Very 80s

Totally Killer is an enjoyable time-travel slasher horror comedy that leans more on the comedy than the horror. Bordering on a parody of the slasher and time-traveling genres, respectively, it borrows tropes from each style of film, referencing examples as it goes.

It’s not going to win any awards for style, cinematography, or acting, but that’s not its purpose. A popcorn movie at its core, Totally Killer offers entertainment you don’t have to think about too much. Just sit back, relax, and have a killer time. 
If you like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Ready or Not, or The Babysitter, I’m sure you’ll love this film, as I did. Just don’t expect groundbreaking cinema.

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