Totally Killer Review

Arrow in the Head reviews the Blumhouse time travel slasher horror comedy Totally Killer, starring Kiernan Shipka and Olivia Holt

PLOT: In 1987, a slasher known as the Sweet Sixteen Killer claimed the lives of three 16-year-old girls. When the killer returns in modern day, a young woman figures out a way to travel back to ‘87… where she hopes to stop the killing before it ever began.

REVIEW: Working with director Christopher Landon, Blumhouse Productions has brought us a few really fun slasher-with-a-twist horror comedies in recent years: the time loop slasher Happy Death Day (and its sequel) and the body swap slasher Freaky. Landon wasn’t involved with their new release Totally Killer, but the movie really feels like a companion piece to those Landon projects – and if you enjoyed Happy Death Day and Freaky, chances are that you’ll like Totally Killer as well.

The high concept gimmick in this one (which was directed by Nahnatchka Khan from a screenplay by David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo) is time travel. The story begins on Halloween night 2023 in the small town of Vernon, which is still haunted by the memory of a string of unsolved murders that occurred in October of 1987. Three high school girls were killed by a masked slasher known as the Sweet Sixteen Killer. All of the victims were 16 years old – the first was even killed during her sixteenth birthday party – and each of them were stabbed sixteen times. While locals like Chris Dubasage (Jonathan Potts of Jason X) cash in on the town’s notoriety – Chris himself hosts a podcast about the case and gives tours of the murder sites – others, like Pam Hughes (Julie Bowen) have been traumatized and live in fear that the killer is going to return. Pam’s moody teenage daughter Jamie (Kiernan Shipka) wishes her mom would just get over what happened back in the ‘80s. But when the killer returns, Jamie discovers that her mom was right to be worried.

Since we’re in a small town in 2023, we’re left to wonder for a little while how time travel is going to be worked into the story. The first 13 minutes have a straightforward slasher vibe, with touches of humor and a dose of tragedy. Then Jamie goes to visit her friend Amelia (Kelcey Mawema) at the school science fair, where Amelia seems to be tinkering with a photo booth… but Jamie drops the line, “When are you gonna tell people you’re building a time machine?” And that’s when things get really nuts, in a very entertaining way.

Totally Killer review

While being attacked by the killer, Jamie activates the time machine and is sent to October 27, 1987. The day of the first murder. So, to change the events of the future, she sets out to try to stop the killing before it even begins. Of course, since this is a slasher movie and therefore needs to have something of a body count, she’s not entirely successful. But it’s fun to watch her try (and occasionally fail). She attempts to make friends with the victims – Liana Liberato as Tiffany Clark, Stephie Chin-Salvo as Marisa Song, and Anna Diaz as Heather Hernandez – and finds that the 16-year-old version of her mom Pam (Olivia Holt) is part of the victims’ friend group. In fact, the four girls are known as The Mollys because each one got their fashion sense from a different Molly Ringwald character.

Also in this friend group are Jeremy Monn-Djasgnar as annoying jock Randy (who goes on to become a coach), Ella Choi as oddball future sheriff Kara Lim (daughter of ‘87 sheriff Dennis Lim, played by Randall Park), and Charlie Gillespie as Blake Hughes – who will eventually become Jamie’s father (he’s played in 2023 by Lochlyn Munro of Freddy vs. Jason). On the outside are the teen Chris Dubasage (Nicholas Lloyd), a loner called Lurch (Zach Gibson), the nerdy Doug Summers (Nathaniel Appiah), who will go on to be the school principal, and Amelia’s equally science-minded mother Lauren (Troy L. Johnson).

Totally Killer review

As a modern kid, Jamie doesn’t fit in very well with the ‘87 kids, which brings a good amount of humor into the film. Also amusing is the fact that the ‘87 teens conduct themselves like they’re right out of a typical ‘80s slasher. While Jamie her does her best to protect them and get them to make sensible choices, it’s like they’re determined to do everything wrong and put themselves in danger. Like when they decide to get away from the dangers of being in Vernon… by going to an isolated cabin in the woods.

The character interactions are a lot of fun to watch, and when the Sweet Sixteen Killer strikes this slasher proves to be surprisingly intense and badass. They may be at the center of a horror comedy, but they’re not messing around. There’s a palpable danger when the killer is confronting our teenage heroes.

‘80s slashers rank highly among my favorite kinds of movies to watch, and this time travel slasher that goes back to the ‘80s was an entertaining and clever way to revisit the glory days of slashers with a modern approach. I had a great time watching Totally Killer, and I think many of my fellow slasher fans will as well. This one lives up to its title.

Totally Killer will be available to watch on Amazon‘s Prime Video streaming service as of October 6th.

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.