We’re officially well into October and Halloween season. All the major streaming platforms are releasing their seasonal spooky movie in the hopes of encouraging audiences to spend some time in front of their televisions. To date, Hulu has already released Appendage and No One Will Save You. Shudder just released V/H/S/85, the latest entry in the found-footage series, and Paramount+ added the prequel, Pet Sematary: Bloodlines. Even Netflix has Mike Flanagan’s newest series, The Fall of the House of Usher, coming soon. Not to be left behind, Amazon Prime has also released its spooky entry, the slasher-comedy Totally Killer. Starring Kiernan Shipka, Totally Killer has critics on board with its time-travelling take on the slasher.
Thirty five years ago, the Sweet Sixteen Killer brutally murdered three teenage girls on their 16th birthday. And then he went silent. Now the Sweet Sixteen Killer has returned to the small town of Vernon with tragic results. When a freak accident with a friend’s science experiment sends Jamie Hughes back in time, she must stop the killer’s original murder spree to save her mother in the present.
Totally Killer Gets Plenty Right In Its Mix of Slasher and Comedy
Straight out of the gate, there’s plenty to like about Totally Killer. Before the title scrawls across the screen, director Nahnatchka Khan delivers a sharply funny and brutal kill that calls back to the wicked opening of Wes Craven’s Scream. Of course, a good slasher needs a memorable killer and effective kills to hit even minimum consideration for fans of the subgenre. Both the basic concept of the movie’s Sweet Sixteen Killer and its look are simple but effective. Considering this is a horror-comedy, the mask used here works perfectly. And Khan gives fans some nasty kills scenes, demonstrating impressive chops for more action-oriented moments.
Straight out of the gate, there’s plenty to like about Totally Killer.
Despite its quick start and zippy first act, Totally Killer struggles a bit with pacing issues. Once Kiernan Shipka’s “Jamie” travels back to the 1980s, the slasher-comedy spins its wheels a bit. The second act recycles too many familiar bits and doesn’t have enough mystery to warrant its pauses between kills. Most horror-savvy audiences will have the killer picked out even if Khan throws a momentary swerve at the them. Nonetheless, Totally Killer slows down, but never really drags. And it quickly recovers just in time for a thrilling third act and entertaining finale.
Totally Killer Borrows Liberally From Several Familiar – and Generally Better – Movies
Aside from a slightly sluggish middle act, if Totally Killer has a problem, it’s the familiarity of its story. Writers David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo liberally borrow from a handful of well-known movies. Most notably, Totally Killer openly references Back to the Future – with mostly spot-on fun call outs – that raises the same issues with time travel. Just ignore those issues and enjoy the movie. Yet Khan and her three screenwriters also tread the same ground as the much more effective Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2U. To a lesser extent, the emotional core of the slasher-comedy – revolving around Jamie’s attempts to connect with her mother – harken back to Final Girls. As much fun as it is, Totally Killer neither distinguishes itself enough from these movies nor does it improve on them.
…Kiernan Shipka (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Silence) once again reminds us why she’s one of the best young actors working today.
Nevertheless, Kiernan Shipka (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Silence) once again reminds us why she’s one of the best young actors working today. She’s equally effective with the humor and horror and ensures ‘Julie’ remains a readily identifiable character. All of the supporting case are having fun in their roles. Both Julie Bowen and Olivia – playing the adult and teen versions of the same character – are loads of fun. Depending on your generation, Totally Killer’s shots at 80s culture will either have you consistently rolling or rolling your eyes at the moral-aggrandizing of Gen-Z.
Totally Killer Stalks Familiar Ground, But Remains a Radically Fun Slasher
Though it’s treading very familiar ground and drags a bit in the middle act, Totally Killer makes for a wickedly fun slasher. Khan adds a slick looking new antagonist to the subgenre’s pantheon while also adding some brutal kills. Most of the humor lands as well – there’s several laugh-out-loud moments. And Kiernan Shipka again proves to be one of the best young actors working today. Ignore its time travel rules and just go with it. Simply put, Totally Killer is a horror-comedy likely to make new fans of the slasher subgenre.