‘Totally Killer’ Movie Review: Kiernan Shipka Shines in 80s,

‘Totally Killer’ Movie Review: Kiernan Shipka Shines in This ’80s Slasher Flick with a Time-Travel Twist

‘Totally Killer’ Breakdown

The easiest way to describe “Totally Killer” is to create a list of all the other movies that come to mind. Plot-wise, it’s an adventure of future times, heavily influenced by Halloween and spiced up with some slasher vibes. 

The cast is all self-aware in a scream-light kind of way. Overall, its mix of comedy and horror fits right into the typical genre territory of films like The Final Girls or Happy Death Day.

‘Totally Killer’ Breathes New Life into Genre Tropes

If its components feel familiar, however, the script (courtesy of David Metalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jane D’Angelo) injects them with heart and humor to keep them from feeling stale. Becoming a classic in its own right may not be in Killer’s destiny, but it’s entertaining enough for a Halloween night binge.

Meet Jamie in ‘Totally Killer’

At the center of it all is the unwitting Marty McFly-esque Jamie (played by Kieren Shipka), a rebellious young woman with parents (Julie Bowen and Lochlyn Munro) who are excessively protective due to a traumatic event 35 years ago when they were all in high school, and two of their friends were killed in a week. Her worst fears come to life when a supposed serial killer from Halloween 2022 reappears to claim another victim. When she catches the killer’s attention, she takes refuge in a time machine that whisks her back to 1987, complete with some charming ’80s aesthetics.

‘Totally Killer’s Time-Traveling Adventure

Unintentional time travel inevitably sets off a clash of sensitivities between General Zed and General X, and Totally Killer mostly rides the expected beats of heart-pounding encounters. Jamie loathes her school’s archetypal jocks, swears profusely like her parents did in their generation, and chain-smokes on clouds of puffy jackets. 

Totally Killer Horror view
Totally Killer Horror view

Some rebellions are present, like when Jamie unwittingly roasts half of the Jock Browns, just brushing it off with “the grass of the ’80s is useless,” and the inevitable questions about the future in 20 Questions revealing that machines don’t terminate us all – “they just break our societal bonds through TikTok dance videos.”

Generational Divides and Survival in ‘Totally Killer’

However, its observation of generational divide isn’t as sharp as it could be. It’s neither the Gen Z satire of “Bodies Bodies Bodies” nor the Gen X nostalgia trip of “Stranger Things.” 

The movie has more to say about actual blood. While Jamie tried her best to prevent her murder in 1987, most of her interactions with the past involve trying to nudge people towards different choices rather than stopping the killings altogether. A complete killer might have benefitted from a more explicit R-rating, but it’s violence is sped up to a pace where viewers are kept engaged for its 103-minute runtime.

Meanwhile, its time-travel shenanigans play out with a pleasant glow. In the present, Jamie’s Tik-Wiz best friend, Emilia (Kelsey Maughan), works on fixing the time machine so Jamie can return home. In the past, Emilia’s even more fabulous future mother, 

Family Feuds in ‘Totally Killer’

Lauren (Traye L. Jensen), does the same. Both are frantically accusing each other of causing all the trouble. “You don’t start trying to create time travel without thinking about how it’ll be needed for future generations,” Lauren scolds when Jamie expresses surprise that she’s taking the breakdown of time travel machines so lightly.

‘Totally Killer’s Unexpected Heart

And, occasionally, a dash of violence. Killer isn’t a particularly emotional film, quite the opposite. In this 1980s version, everyone’s so nonchalant about the shocking events that are unraveling within it, it’s as if a newscaster interprets a gruesome display as “charming.” But it’s Jamie and Pam’s (Olivia Holt) budding relationship that puts a beating heart at the center of the mayhem. 

A Slash Back To The 80s With A Twist
A Slash Back To The 80s With A Twist

The duo’s initial reluctance to start a romance feels genuine. Jamie’s realization that Pam understands societal prejudice enough to call out gaslighting with “it’s hilarious to you to pretend to be a social outcast for the popular boy,” (Carrie is around by then, but maybe Pam never saw it?) is met by Pam’s understanding that an outsider barging into her friends’ lives with bizarre warnings of impending doom is, in fact, “hilarious.”

Jamie’s Evolution

But the adventure positions Jamie in the role of protecting the very person who will, 35 years later, be there to protect her when she needs it most, forcing Pam to see her in a new light. 

Shipka is entirely charming as the new heroine who can switch-hit between baseball and matters of the heart with ease – and while a later quip from Pam about “nobody wants to hear you talk about how much you love yourself, mom,” has some weak execution, Holt’s already shown that she can carry a woman of action.

‘Totally Killer’ Embraces Bloodshed and Celebration

Their budding friendship makes it all too easy to toss the killer aside, even as the film’s attempts at final scares feel flat. It’s healthy that Killer doesn’t shy away from all the bloodshed and the sing-along beer parties and the beer pong that never seems to end, despite the apparent endless supply of grass and beer. Here’s to you, it seems to say, calling your mom and telling her you love her till the very end.

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