Totally Killer Review: A Horror-Comedy That Loves Its ’80s Tropes

Spoilers

There’s a killer on the loose, and they’re totally rocking the ’80s. Like, seriously!

Amazon Prime Video’s newest slasher, Totally Killer, is a sci-fi horror-comedy that takes what we love of the ’80s and mixes it with a time travel twist. Think of it like a mix of Happy Death Day and Scream but in a B-movie VHS tape.

Compared to those two slashers having a solid point of view, Totally Killer was just another slasher on the block. It was a bloody, fun ride, albeit a messy one with its B-horror movie characters and inconsistent plot.

Totally Killer captures the exaggerated tone of the ’80s, especially in campy horror flicks. Plenty of big hair, big colors, and bigger personalities make up the world.

But what helps the movie stand out is the self-aware nature of Jamie Hughes (played by Kiernan Shipka of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 1) as she travels decades back into the past to prevent her mother’s future death.

Jamie is a level-headed “Final Girl” who wastes no time trying to save everyone’s lives. She’s direct, determined, and holds nothing back when stopping the killer.

Plus, she’s a resourceful lead with the self-defense skills and wits to fight the Sweet Sixteen Killer.

We don’t have to worry much about Jamie because she’s the most in control out of everyone in the cast. Being logical and resourceful are the strongest traits she brings back to the past.

And her knowledge of the future keeps her one step ahead of what the killer could do.

Shipka does an excellent job of channeling this side of Jamie. You feel her frustration when no one heeds her warnings, and you root for her when she takes charge in the plan to save the victims.

Another highlight is Jamie’s complex growing list of connections.

Jamie feels like a realistic teen dealing with the trauma of her mother’s death. She starts as a rebellious girl before transforming into a strong and assertive leader who cares about the lives of others.

Part of this is captured through her relationship with her mother.

Being faced with a teen version of her dead mother (played by Olivia Holt of Cruel Summer Season 1) puts many things into perspective about who her mother was and who she became. Jamie rebelled against Pam’s worrying, but now, in the past, Jamie had to have all the stress.

Their role reversal was an interesting plot because of how aloof Pam was to her behavior and everything happening around her.

Like, a killer is going around murdering her mean girl friends! Why was the urgency not kicking in? (We’ll get to this later on.)

Eventually, she understood the seriousness of it all, but she and her group took their sweet time.

In addition to Pam, we also had Jamie’s new friendship with genius Lauren (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson), Jamie’s father Blake as a meathead teen (Charlie Gillespie from Julie and The Phantoms), and Pam’s friend group of ’80s horror movie stereotypes.

Now, let’s get to the main plot of Totally Killer.

The horror-comedy slasher injects elements of sci-fi into its plot with the use of time travel. Jamie is sent back in time to stop the Sweet Sixteen Killer from murdering Pam’s three best friends before going after Pam herself.

It’s an exciting storyline because it brings up a tension-filled deadline that Jamie needs to solve.

She knows when her mother’s friends die, right down to the details. If she can’t save them, history will be repeated, and it could lead to Pam’s death.

I enjoyed how clear it was to follow the purpose of Jamie’s adventure. We have clear stakes and a mission that she must complete.

Totally Killer’s problem is the confusing and murky nature of its time travel plot.

Time travel isn’t a new trope for movies and television, and the effects of changing the past are the biggest warning signs for its characters.

Just look at every season of The Flash! There was always chaos that erupted by someone messing up the timeline or playing with past events. And even with the multiverses, time travel still threw everything for a loop.

Totally Killer tried to bypass this by making up their own rules. However, it tended not to stay consistent with its lessons.

For example, the rule was made that the present time (2023) would continue moving while Jamie was in the ’80s, but her actions would impact the future and change memories and events.

That’s all well and good if Totally Killer stuck to it. However, even when events were changed, people in the present still had some recollection of memories from the pre-change.

If the events had been updated, the adults wouldn’t have vastly different memories of what happened from something that didn’t happen.

These moments would’ve been completely gone! (Confused? So am I.)

Jamie’s best friend Amelia (Kelcey Mawema) blamed it on the “Mandela Effect” theory, but it seemed more like a way to make up for easy plot decisions. Why could an adult remember details like a different murder scenario but not a musician’s former persona?

Time travel plots can get messy, and they need a clear structure for how to execute it. Even Avengers: Endgame had its share of time travel confusion.

And that’s not even considering the reveal of its killer, which also gets muddled by the time travel rules and backstory exposition. (No spoilers here! Watch the film to learn about the identity.)

Comparatively, the biggest issue of Totally Killer is the unrealistic stupidity of the teens from the ’80s.

One of Totally Killer’s threads is how casual and “safe” everyone felt in the past. No one believes Jamie when she warns about a killer, and she’s allowed to do anything when asked. It’s a very apathetic approach to getting what she wants.

This feeling is shared among Pam’s friend group, who don’t have a care in the world.

I could buy their naive obliviousness in the life pre-murders. As the sheriff said, there had never been a murder before in Vernon.

They’re teenagers in their safe bubble of teen drama, hookups, and partying.

However, once the Sweet Sixteen Killer starts the murders, you would expect they’d become more cautious and worried, right? Nope! It’s the same old obliviousness.

Someone they knew got butchered and they’re back to partying like nothing happened. And even Pam, who had a whole conversation about the killer, didn’t treat the murder as seriously.

B-horror movies, especially the ones in the ’80s, tended to play with these tropes a lot. Particularly, it’s the airheaded, sex-craving, party-loving group that is too focused on other things to notice a killer is murdering people around them.

American Horror Story Season 9 is a great example of spotting these fodder victims and stereotypes in the bunch.

I love that type of slasher; it’s my bread and butter. However, it was frustrating at times being on Jamie’s journey because no one was listening to her or taking it seriously.

No one in life is that clueless or heartless about the death of their frenemy.

And it was too late into the movie when they got serious. Even characters in ’80s slashers kicked into action faster when they discovered a masked killer was hunting them down.

Let that sink in: the targets of killers like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers were more concerned about their lives and a killer on the loose than the ’80s teens on Totally Killer.

Sure, the teens in ’90s movies like Scream had parties with a killer around, but at least they kept in groups and were scared of being the next victim.

These decisions might’ve been made to heighten the comedy elements of Totally Killer. Cheesy characters who make brainless decisions lead to bloody results, so that’s the best guess for the method to this madness.

Totally Killer isn’t a bad film. It’s a fun campy slasher for spooky season that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The movie is here for the kills and the time-traveling Halloween shenanigans of its main cast. However, with more realistic characters and a seamless plot, Totally Killer would’ve been more of a bloody good time vs. having moments that were a bloody mess.

Now, over to you, TV Fanatics.

What did you think of Totally Killer? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Totally Killer is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video.

Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on X.

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