As horror has continued to gain a foothold in pop culture, new ideas pushed the genre forward. However, on occasion, some retreads stand on their own. Totally Killer, a new horror flick on Amazon Prime, seems to meet its audience on that wavelength. A time-travel slasher is far from a new idea. However, director Nahnatchka Khan brings enough heart to the story to keep it engaging for a Friday night. Kiernan Shipka (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) once again embraces her horror side and succeeds in a more straightforward slasher.
After a death in town, Jamie Hughes (Shipka) finds herself seeking answers. In her pursuit, she finds a masked killer hunting her in an old amusement park. In her struggle to survive, she enters a time machine and is transported back to 1987. With 35 years of history, Jamie can team up with the teenage version of her mother (Olivia Holt/Julie Bowen) to stop the killer before he gets started.
The most successful aspects of Totally Killer stem from integrating silly real-world trends into the narrative. There are a few jabs at meta-horror early on and wisecrack about time travel movies not making any sense. Ultimately, Khan decides to skip over the particulars and give the audience fun sequences of teen drama. The cast, which includes Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, Stephi Chin-Salvo, Liana Liberato, and Ella Choi, is certainly up to the task. We get just enough Mean Girls meets Gen-Z humor to provide a fun arc for the feature.
Totally Killer stands out above similar teen slashers in its willingness to have consequences. Too often, the teen horror beat seems scary but pulls back any stakes by the end of the film. There are not only deaths in Totally Killer but bloody ones at that. For once, it’s nice to see that the choices of the characters in time-travel movies matter.
Still, there’s a light nature to Totally Killer that seems to step around the horrors unfolding. Even with some stakes, the teens seem more than willing to move on with their lives. A walk home and subsequent movie binge aside, few characters confront their own mortality. Given the horrific and graphic deaths depicted, there should be some more residual effects from the ghastly attacks.
Additionally, Totally Killer struggles to live up to other Blumhouse horror comedies. Unfortunately, the visual palette feels flat compared to Happy Death Day or M3GAN. The tone comes very close throughout, which speaks to their house style, but Khan finds nuance in the story to help it stand apart. However, given its similarities, and frustrations with Blumhouse becoming a little formulaic, its possible that Totally Killer will frustrate hardcore horror fans.
Even so, Totally Killer does not overstay its welcome. At a tidy 106 minutes, we get just enough background and story to have fun with the killers. Illusions to the Mandela Effect are funny, and using dramatic irony helps land some humor in the second half of the film. Totally Killer will make for an enjoyable Friday night watch for new horror fans, seasoned vets, and scaredy cats alike.