Dir. Nahnatchka Khan (2023)
A teenaged girl whose mother was just murdered by the recently returned "Sweet Sixteen Killer" goes back in time to 1987 to stop his murder spree before it started.
The recent obsession with the 80's in horror is fascinating, a reminder that those of us who grew up around the decade are getting old in much the same way that people slightly younger than my parents must have felt when U2 played the Super Bowl in 2002. The appeal to an older generation by including so many of the things they grew up with is interesting, but it's also wildly successful: movies like Hot Tub Time Machine and Fear Street were massively popular, another indication that appealing to older folks is a great way to rake in buckets of money. Next up on that trend is Totally Killer, a movie about a young woman named Jamie (Kiernan Shipka) who goes back in time to try to stop a serial killer that has started killing again in the present day.
The movie does the 80's well without overdoing it. It never feels like it's overtly pandering to its target audience, but there are plenty of references to the era that will hit home for viewers (the mean girl clique is called The Mollys, and they all go to a Halloween party dressed like different iterations of Molly Ringwald). The style is on point, the neon backdrops fit in perfectly, and the high-school sects that have been skewered in so many recent movies are the same ones that we all grew up with (unless you went to school in the last decade or so). The humor also works well, with some legitimately funny moments that help to break up the relatively straightforward and mundane slasher-movie plot. Jamie's continual references to events that haven't happened yet are a nice "inside joke" moment for the audience, helping to ground the film between both time periods without relying too much on nostalgia.
While Totally Killer was certainly entertaining, it's lack of groundbreaking plot developments does make it feel like it's been done before. The time travel elements in Happy Death Day and it's sequel were done a little better, and the kills don't really hold anything new compared to many of its slasher kin. Totally Killer is, however, brutal when it needs to be while maintaining the "teen horror" facade, and the writing is funny enough to carry it even when its at its weakest. It's endearing at times and ridiculous in others, and the film's take on overbearing true crime podcasters rings particularly true in today's bite-size "content creator" society. Even the "wifi-powered time machine" is adequately explained, helping to prevent a plot hole that could've been spotted from space.
At the end of the day, it's a perfectly adequate teen slasher comedy, nothing more and (thankfully) nothing less. It's entertaining, genuinely funny, and Shipka's performance as the out-of-her-element time-traveling teenager works well. As long as you're not expecting anything particularly new and you're in for a little juvenile humor, you could certainly do a lot worse with your movie choices. If you're a fan of movies like Happy Death Day and The Final Girls, you'll likely enjoy this one too.
Who this movie is for: Teen slasher connoisseurs, Horror comedy lovers, Breakfast Club fanatics
Bottom line: Totally Killer is not going to surprise you in any way, but it's a fun film with some funny lines and a decent, throwback plot. Shipka is really good in the film and the writing leaves little to be desired, so as long as you're not expecting anything new, this is a good one to help pass the time. It's streaming on Amazon Prime, and who doesn't have that in 2023? Check it out.