“Totally Killer”: Totally Fun

In “Totally Killer”, the film combines time travel with a serial killer, sending the heroine to the eighties to try to save her mother. The trailers and premise made me want to watch the movie, especially since it seemed to promise the campy fun of the eighties. After watching the movie on Amazon Prime, I found it far more focused on science fiction and less on campy humor but it still was totally fun. 

“Totally Killer” is a comedy slasher film directed by Nahnatchka Khan from a screenplay by David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo. In the film, produced by Blumhouse, the film opens by showing that in 1987 three teenage girls were killed by the Sweet Sixteen killer. In the present, teenager Jamie Hughes (Kiernan Shipka) goes to a concert with her friend Amelia (Kelcey Mawema) and her mother Pam Hughes (Julie Bowen) stays home to hand out candy on Halloween. While doing so, she is killed by the serial killer. Amelia reveals she’s been building a time machine. When Jamie is hunted by the killer, she manages to trigger the machine and is sent back to 1987 where she attempts to prevent the deaths of the teenagers and catch the killer so she can prevent her mother’s death assisted by Amelia’s mother Lauren (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson) But nothing goes as Jamie plans, including figuring out a way back to her own time. The film stars Oliva Holt as teenage Pam and Randall Park as the sheriff. 

One of the elements I like the best are the science fiction time travel aspects. While the writers don’t take it too seriously, the time travel is fun and pokes fun at the changes from 1987 to the present time, especially how easily Jamie enrolls into high school and how little documentation the school requires. While some of those are absolutely not accurate at all, they are done with humor and add to the fun. I also enjoyed the explanation that illustrates that as Jamie interacts with the past, she’s making changes to the future. The film does a really good job of showing those changes as Amelia attempts to build a machine to reach her friend in the past.

The other part of the writing I like is how difficult it is for Jamie to save the teenagers, Tiffany (Liana Liberato), Marisa (Stephi Chin-Salvo) and Heather (Anna Diaz). As Jamie interacts with the past, her choices make events in the past change. It also makes it much more difficult for her to predict when and where the killer will strike. Eventually, she gets help and the teenagers band together to try to stop the killer. But the serial killer isn’t who anyone expects and the solution isn’t as simple as Jamie thinks it will end up being. That complexity, especially the resolution of the story, is part of what I enjoyed about the film.

Kiernan Shipka is believable as a teenager of today’s society and I love some of the ways she portrays that in the past. She feels authentic as a girl who’s lost her mother and wants to fix things, even as she learns her mother isn’t quite who she thought she was. I love how Kiernan Shipka gives a performance with emotion and intelligence. The cast around her does a decent job especially Julie Bowen, Olivia Holt and Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson. All three give more complex performances and are enjoyable to watch. Randall Park performs with his customary humor but it feels reined in and not as strong as it normally would be. The cast is also joined by a great cast of teenagers that do add to the humor and action. 

My biggest critique is that the film isn’t as funny as I expected. Randall Park is reined in and not given very much focus. The jokes he performs are more about not taking the teenagers seriously which isn’t very believable with a serial killer on the loose. The humor is mostly focused on how different the past is from the current day, especially in the behavior of teenagers and the security precautions. Most of that doesn’t work because it’s not authentic. Jamie joins high school without paperwork from any adults and as someone who grew up in the eighties, it is not realistic. That lack of realism spoils most of the humor for me. It might work better with a younger audience, however. Despite that some of the humor is fun and I enjoyed the mystery of Jamie stopping the serial killer. 

If you like time travel films/slasher flicks, you should enjoy the movie. It does a great job of combining those two elements and creating an interesting mystery. I especially love how complex the ending is and how Jamie figures out how to stop the serial killer. Even better, I love the consequences of her trip to the past in her current time. The cast perform well and this is a totally fun movie. The science fiction elements are well handled and Kiernan Shipka is skilled in the starring role. Despite some of the film not being believable and the comedy not as strong as I’d like, I still enjoyed the movie.

Rating: 3 out of 5 deaths. 


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