Totally Killer Takes Us Back to the Very Un-PC 1980s

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As I’ve written about a few times before, I’m not a big fan of slasher films. In fact, I’d even say that slashers are one of my least favorite horror subgenres. However, as with most things in life, there are plenty of exceptions, and a lot of the slashers I enjoy put a humorous twist on the typical “slice and dice” formula. So naturally, when I first heard about Totally Killer, I was pretty intrigued. This movie looked like the kind of slasher comedy I often gravitate towards, so I couldn’t wait to see what hilarious gags and bloody thrills it had in store for me.

Totally Killer was directed by Nahnatchka Khan, and it stars a pretty massive cast, including Kiernan Shipka, Olivia Holt, Julie Bowen, and Randall Park. It’s set in a town where a serial killer dubbed the ‘Sweet Sixteen Killer’ murdered three high school girls about 35 years ago, and he was never caught. His identity has remained a mystery right up until the present day, but now, this enigmatic murderer is back in business.

He murders someone close to Jamie, a high school girl whose mother was friends with the killer’s first three victims, and soon afterwards, he goes after Jamie herself. During their struggle, Jamie manages to get inside a time machine her best friend built for a science project, and when she steps out of the device, she finds herself back in 1987, the same year the original murders took place. Once there, she teams up with her mother and some of her mother’s classmates to track the killer down and put an end to their town’s nightmare once and for all.

Most comedies stand or fall almost entirely on the strength of their humor, and Totally Killer is no different. By and large, when the humor works, the movie works, but when the jokes fall flat, the film begins to drag. In short, your enjoyment of this movie will depend largely on how funny you find it, and for me, the humor was a very mixed bag.

A group of girls at gym class
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Before we travel back to 1987, Totally Killer is excellent. Most of the laughs here play off the generational gap between Jamie and her parents, and while the comedy never quite reaches laugh-out-loud status, it’s still pretty hilarious. However, once Jamie leaves the present day and gets stuck in the past, the humor slowly starts to go downhill.

See, somewhat like the first part of the movie, the jokes here tend to center around the differences between our modern culture and the very un-PC mindset of the 1980s, and at first, that disconnect had me chuckling every few minutes. However, the schtick eventually wore out its welcome, and I just got tired of it. It’s very much a one-trick pony, so it simply doesn’t have the staying power needed to carry an entire 100-minute film.

That being said, I don’t want you to think that Totally Killer completely goes down the drain in 1987. I said that the film stands or falls almost entirely on the strength of its comedy, and that “almost” is key. While it does begin to drag once the humor loses its charm, the movie actually redeems itself quite a bit in the last 15 minutes or so.

The final confrontation between Jamie’s new 1980s friend group and the killer takes place largely in a haunted house, and it’s fantastic. Director Nahnatchka Khan takes full advantage of the spooky setting to craft a super fun chase sequence that had me on the edge of my seat, and when the characters leave the place, the film manages to sustain that high right up until the moment when Jamie goes back home.

A girl with a baseball bat
Image provided by Prime Video

The final few minutes take some very Scream-esque twists and turns, but they’re also original enough that they never feel like cheap rip-offs. I obviously can’t go into any specifics without spoiling the ending, but suffice it to say that Totally Killer puts some very clever spins on its big reveals, and they caught me off guard every time.

So overall, I’d say that the beginning of the movie and the end are very good, but everything between those two bookends is rather mediocre. Like I said before, the comedy is quite lackluster in this part, but that’s not the only thing that falls flat. I also thought the horror was very middle-of-the-road, and the emotional connection between Jamie and the 1987 version of her mother missed the mark as well.

Granted, the relationship between these two girls isn’t bad in itself, but on the whole, Totally Killer just doesn’t make you care much about any of its characters, including Jamie and her mother. They’re watchable at best, but nobody in this film is particularly charming or loveable. In fact, most of them feel more like stereotypes than real people, so when the film tries to tug at your heartstrings, it simply doesn’t have the emotional heft to make much of an impact.

However, despite all those problems, I have to admit that when the credits began to roll, I found myself surprisingly satisfied. I don’t know if I’d say that the good in Totally Killer outweighs the bad overall, but since the movie ends on a high note, it definitely feels that way. So if you’re looking for some good new horror to watch this Halloween season, you might want to give this film a shot. It has enough good humor and horror that it’s worth a watch, and as long as you don’t go into the movie expecting a masterpiece, I think you’ll be glad you checked it out.

Totally Killer is set to hit Amazon Prime Video on October 6.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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