Halloween celebrations might still take a while to become a thing in our part of the world but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t enjoy a good slasher flick during this time of the year. While Saw X, Nun 2 and The Exorcist: Believer are totally adding to the much-needed scares for horror fans, Totally Killer is a film that goes back to the roots of the genre and provides a nostalgic and fun sci-fi/horror mishmash.
In this crazy yet comical plot, Jamie Hughes (Kiernan Shipka), a teen with the usual ‘I hate my parents’ vibe, learns that the Sweet 16 Killer who killed her mom’s schoolmates has returned after 35 years when Pam (Julie Bowen), her mom, gets killed. Distraught, she learns about a time machine her bestie has built and Jamie travels back in time in a bid to put a stop to the serial killer and in due course, save her mother.
Totally Killer (English)
Director: Nahnatchka Khan
Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Olivia Holt, Charlie Gillespie, Lochlyn Munro, Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, Liana Liberato
Run-time: 106 minutes
Storyline: A teen has to go back in time to save her mom from the Sweet 16 Killer who is back after 35 years
Totally Killer’s biggest strength is how it takes the best tropes of time-travel and slasher flicks and pays homage to some of the best films that defined those genres, while also combining them into a fresh product that’s both hilarious and fun. Beyond the direct Back to the Future, Scream and Halloween’s Michael Myers (RIP legend) references, the film also features classic horror tropes like a cabin in the woods in the middle of nowhere, teens making out while the killer is hiding in the closet and the killer having his own style of branding his victims. But the film, despite showcasing tremendous potential, just never goes past this initial high and when the novelty wears off, it almost turns into a template feature that’s predictable.
After the charming rom-com Always Be My Maybe, filmmaker Nahnatchka Khan brilliantly infuses humour into her sophomore outing as well. She doesn’t pull her punches on several aspects that are considered unacceptable today but were unfortunately regarded as a norm back in those days. There are jabs at everything from rude coaches at schools to calling out racism and homophobic behaviour that are put out more in a hilarious manner rather than being preachy. It’s not all gloomy as Khan also points out the brighter side of the 80s, like how it wasn’t a scary ordeal to jump into a stranger’s car or how owning a waterbed wasn’t really a bad idea after all.
Totally Killer leaves you wishing the film did complete justice to the genres it has picked to blend; not all the jokes land as well as they’re intended to, and the killings aren’t particularly scary for both the audience and the characters in the film. But at its core, the film has a throbbing heart. Along with enough humour to keep it afloat, Totally Killer is a fun ode to Hollywood’s tryst with sci-fi and horror.
Totally Killer is currently streaming on Prime Video