If you’re looking for a horror comedy this month, Amazon Prime has you covered.
After watching the trailer for this teen 80’s time traveling slasher, I was not amused. The humor did not work for me at all, as it came off like a couple of Gen Z sitcom writers wrote it. My expectations were pretty low going into, so I was pleased to find myself actually enjoying this movie.
It did a few things right, but it also did some things wrong, and it did some things that really annoyed the shit out of me.
The thing that saved it for me was the fact that they lean heavily into their R rating. You have no idea how hard it is these days to find a slasher that isn’t watered down with a PG-13 rating, like Happy Death Day, where they made a slasher film for babies. Totally Killer however understands its audience and doesn’t hold back on blood-soaked kills.
When the film isn’t preaching about how racist the 1980’s were of course. A few times is maybe okay to point out the culture shock, but for our main character to constantly bring it up just got on my nerves to no end. And that’s the film’s major fault, as I really did not care about our main character, Jamie.
In fact, I really did not care for anyone in this, as they are all purposely meant to be assholes. Which I get; the humor comes from that: this girl going back in time to save these insufferable assholes. The downside is that I couldn’t give two shits about anything that happens to them.
The premise isn’t a bad one; it’s a time-traveling slasher film, taking us through the tropes of slasher films of the 1980s. Something like The Final Girls did, which I thought failed miserably, another PG-13 slasher film, ironically couldn’t show the things it was spoofing because of its rating.
The plot of Totally Killer is a simple one: back in 1987, a slasher called the Sweet Sixteen Killer murdered three people on their birthdays (I think), all of whom were best friends with our main character’s mother, Pam.
Now in the present day, both of Jamie’s parents are a bit overprotective given what happened, seeing as it’s Jamie’s 16th birthday. No, damn it, scratch that, it isn’t her birthday, which would make sense given the plot, right?
No, it’s just Halloween night, the same night the killer first struck so many years ago.
Jamie wants to go out with her friend to a concert when the killer strikes again, finally killing Pam, her mother.
Okay, now for the part of the film that doesn’t work, the time travel stuff. In Happy Death Day, they didn’t even bother explaining the Groundhog Dayness until the sequel, and even then, it more or less made sense.
Totally Killer, on the other hand, seemed like they didn’t spend much time thinking about this at all, as it is absolutely stupid as hell. Her friend is building a time machine for the school fair using a photo booth at an amusement park. That’s it; that’s our time travel explanation.
It’s so half assed and dumb; they could have gone without it, and the plot would have made more sense. However, unlike most time travel movies, once you’re in the unwanted timeline, you never see the timeline our main character left behind, except in Totally Killer you do. As events take place in the past, we get to see things change in the future.
That does I think make the film stand out.
After a tussle with the killer, Jamie ends up at the amusement park where the time machine photo booth is. The killer stabs the machine, bringing her back to 1987, a year set by her friend previously to maybe go back and stop the killer, saving Jamie’s mom.
I might have done some research into time travel when working on my own time travel slasher. One theory I ran into is that you can only go back in time when the machine or device you are using exists.
So going beyond its creation would be impossible.
Another is that if you travel faster than a laser, you could possibly skip forward in time but not backwards.
There used to be someone on eBay selling what they claimed to be a real time machine, basically what it was was this cube, lined with thin plastic sheeting you then put your head through, using the power of thought, I guess you would go to any place in time.
I remember searching around and found a YouTube video of a dad and his son who actually bought one, which if I’m remembered right cost about $100, and they seemed slightly disappointed it didn’t work when they put it over their heads.
Since Jamie is already here, she might as well track her mom down and try to save mom’s friends, who all die in a few days.
She goes to school and is immediately turned off by the racism of the old school mascot. She sees racism and blatant sexism everywhere. Obviously, things are going to offend her, as most things do with someone her age. It would have been funnier if we actually saw what the new politically correct school symbol looks like in the present, since changing it from a cartoon native American. I’m imagining The Greendale Human Being from the series Community.
To be fair, now that I think about it this would be how someone from 2023 would react to stuff from 1987, especially if they were born in the 2000’s.
Pam as a teen is a complete bitch, and her friends are no better, as they seem like the Heathers from the film Heathers, but even worse and even more clueless. Even one of the friends is named Heather.
Jamie passes herself off as an exchange student from Canada, trying to get close to Pam and her friends, but they want nothing to do with her, as she does seem a bit creepy. All during a game of dodge ball by the way. She acts like she’s never seen it before; do they not play dodge ball anymore?
When I was her age, we played wall ball. A game where you just threw a ball at the wall and if someone else catches it, they have to throw the ball as hard as they could at you as you stood execution style by said wall.
Oh high school. The memories.
Not getting anywhere with her mom, Jamie tries to find her friend’s mom, who was a genius coincidentally, much like her time machine-building daughter.
Lauren is easy to convince that Jamie is from the future by just giving her her smartphone. The time machine runs on Wi-Fi, which didn’t exist in 1987, so Jamie needs her help to get the machine working again and get her back to the present.
The first murder happens at Tiffany’s party; the first of Pam’s friends is killed by the Sweet Sixteen Killer. But Jamie is having trouble trying to get into the house party as everyone considers her the new weird kid.
This could have been interesting as well, with Jamie being the popular girl in her time, but coming to 1987, she is now the weird, unpopular one. We don’t really know what kind of kid she is as she only has one friend.
We really get nothing from Jamie at all as a character. I don’t know if she’s gay, as she shows zero interest in boys. But that could just be that’s how modern strong female protagonists are portrayed these days, very asexual, wearing very bland, not revealing clothes as to not mistakenly sexualize her.
We don’t know if she’s popular, as we never see her at school other than one scene after her mom dies. I really know nothing about Jamie other than she kind of hates her overprotective mother and is sad she dies. That’s it. She is mostly a blank slate and remains one.
Honestly, she could have just been a dude and not change a single thing in the script. They’d be completely interchangeable. Hell, for all I know, that’s exactly what happened.
Along with Lauren and the other loser at school, Doug, who eventually grows up to be the school principal, they try to sneak into the party, only for Jamie to get kicked out again by Randy, the future idiot gym teacher, whose great tip for surviving a masked killer is to just run away. His slogan is Avoid the knife. Keep your life.
Tiffany was originally killed in the garage, but in her place are two teens making out. Instead, the location has changed, with her dying in her parent’s bedroom and getting stabbed 16 times by the killer, his calling card.
Maybe I missed something, but I don’t think we ever find out the reason for the whole 16 thing. Not why he goes after them on their 16th birthday or why he stabs them 16 times. You would think it would have a connection to his motive, but I don’t think it does when you eventually do find out who the killer is and why this is happening.
Which I guess I won’t spoil, as this is a mystery whodunit type of slasher, but it’s pretty obvious to figure out. There are two twists, and both are pretty easy to guess because man do they telegraph it to you like you’re a moron.
After Tiffany is killed, the gang goes to a cabin in the woods to get away from everything. At this point, Jamie has squirmed her way into the friend group. The cabin is the location where friend #2 Marisa is killed, but because the timeline has changed, it is now where friend #3 Heather is murdered.
I really enjoyed the whole cabin in the woods scenes. Her friends all get high on pot brownies, but Jamie is used to 2023 weed, so it really doesn’t get her stoned as much as the others. So, she’s basically babysitting these high or drunk teens, trying to keep them from dying. Or, in her parents’ case, keep them from hooking up, as they only started dating in college, and if they start in high school, there’s a good chance they’ll break up before having Jamie.
Jamie is locked outside the cabin because she’s being a buzzkill. As the group is looking for the pizza, she promised them to keep them inside, but the killer shows up and stabs Heather to death.
Now that just leaves Marisa, whom they plan on using as bait to draw out the killer. They take things to the amusement park because that is where Lauren has managed to rig up a new time machine that will take Jamie back home.
This is where things start to dip into heavy spoilers, so I’ll end it here.
This isn’t a perfect film by any means, but it does what I think it needed to do. It got a few chuckles out of me, and it delivered on the gore, not being afraid to be a slasher.
Like most time-travel movies, it has plotholes and stuff that just doesn’t make sense. They seem to know this, as they call it out. Hey, you can’t say our movie is dumb if we point it out to you ourselves!
I say that out of everything I watched in the first week of Horror Month, this was the best one so far. It’s also going up against films like Slotherhouse, so really, that might not be saying much.
Totally Killer is worth your time if you are looking for something to put on and not have to care too much about. It’s dumb; it knows it’s dumb, so screw it. I give Totally Killer a RENT.
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