We Found It On Streaming: TOTALLY KILLER (2023)

Image via MGM

You know the film. It’s a film you have never heard of. The cast might be composed of actors you know and love or complete unknowns. You stumble across it on streaming and wonder if it will be worth two hours of you time. This series will be devoted to reviewing films like these, the strange items that pop up when you are looking for a flick on the streaming service of your choice. This is “We Found It On Streaming”

Image via MGM

FILM: Totally Killer

Release Date: October 6, 2023

Run Time: 106 Minutes.

Streaming Service(s): Amazon Prime Video

Rating: R for bloody violence, language, sexual material, and teen drug/alcohol use

Note to Hollywood filmmakers: If your film can be described as “Blank meets Back to the Future,” you’ve already got me interested. When a film is described as “Halloween meets Back to the Future,” like Totally Killer is, you got a guaranteed watch from me.

Jamie Hughes (Kiernan Shipka) lives under the burden many teens do, the burden of an overprotective parent. Her mom, Pam (Julie Bowen) has reason to be overprotective. In 1987, the Sweet Sixteen Killer slaughtered three of her friends over a number of days, leaving her the only survivor out of the group. When the Sweet Sixteen Killer returns, Jamie and Pam become targets.

The killer stalks Jaime to an abandoned amusement park where her high school is holding their science fair. Jamie hides from the killer in her friend Ameilia’s (Kelcey Mawema) science project–a fully functioning time machine. When the killer accidentally activates the time machine, Jaime is sent back to the day the killings started in 1987. Now she has the opportunity to stop the killer and protect her mom in the future. But she has to do this without changing history too much, or else she might not ever be born.

Yeah, I might have lost a few of you at the beginning of the last paragraph, as you might think it a bit too goofy. But you shouldn’t hold it against Totally Killer, which mixes horror, sci-fi and comedy very, very well.

Image via MGM

The film has gotten flack for being too similar to 2015’s The Final Girls, a film that also features a young female protagonist who travels back in time to save her mother from a slasher. I think this is unfair because A) I am old enough to remember when we had two films about volcanos destroying a populated modern-day city in the same year, immediately followed by two films where the earth was endangered by an impact event of global magnitude–and those films were far more similar to each other than these two, and B) if Totally Killer is referencing The Final Girls, the latter joins a long list of other films Totally Killer is referencing.

This film is a servant to many masters. Not only does it borrow so heavily from the aforementioned Halloween and Back to the Future so much that it feels the need to name check both in the actual script, but it also pays homage to everything from Heathers to the films of John Hughes (If the main character was male, he’d probably be called John Lee Curtis), from Scream to teenage sex comedies, and many more. All these homages might have resulted in a patchwork of ill-fitting references. But a directed by Nahnatchka Khan from a script by David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver and Jen D’Angelo, the film finds balance in all the genres and makes up for an entertaining fun ride.

Image via MGM

One of the things I liked about the film is the way it presents the differences between the 80s and today. Yes, there is the typical “teased out hair and acid washed jeans” costuming that you’ll find in any movie set in the 80s that is made today. But there are also witty nods to cultural norms from back then that wouldn’t fly today, such as the cavalier attitude to drunk driving, the popularity of smoking and even that the fact that pot was way weaker back then. This provides most of the humor in the film. Granted, Jamie’s woke chastising of the more politically incorrect views and wordage of the day does start to wear thin, but overall this aspect of the film works well.

The filmmakers also do well in wring as much humor out of the character and how they follow the tropes of the genre as possible. The 1980s teens are both incredibly stupid and incredibly horny, as were many of the characters in the slasher films of the day were, and a lot of the laughs come as the more jaded Jamie has to reign them in.

There is a lot of horror in it as well, and all of it is well done. Khan seems to have watched a whole lot of slasher films to get the feel of those films down. When the Sweet Sixteen Killer stalks on of his victims, you’ll be on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens next, just like you would in your favorite slasher films of the era. The horror doesn’t take away from the humor and the humor doesn’t take away from the horror. It is perfectly balanced.

Kudos should go out to the casting as well, especially to whoever decided on Kiernana Shipka to play the lead. She is the glue that holds the whole film together. I consider Shipka to be one of the best young actresses working today and the film shows off her skills beautifully. Points should also go out to Olivia Holt, who plays Jamie’s mom in the 1980s. She is a graduate of the Disney Factory of Kid Actors but here she proves that she is more than that. Her character has many more layers than are on the surface. Holt brings them all out and makes the character’s internal dichotomies seem believable.

Image Via MGM

This film was made by Blumhouse Television, the second movie from them to make an appearance in this feature. I might have to look for more films by them, but they are 2 for 2 out of the ones I have seen so far. I recommend this film highly.

Have you found a film on streaming that you’d like us to look at? Leave it in the comments and it might appear in a future installment of this feature. 

Avatar für Bill Gatevackes
About Bill Gatevackes 2040 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.
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