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  • Nate Adams

'Totally Killer' review: A generic slasher riff on 'Back to the Future'

Courtesy of Prime Video


A time traveling horror comedy that never shies away from its inspiration, “Totally Killer” is a slasher with little pulse or memorable execution. Constantly making references to “Back to the Future” and “Scream,” while also poking fun at how laidback the 1980s were, filmmaker Nahnatchka Kahn understands the limits of the genre and, with the help of screenwriters David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo. makes satirical jabs through the lens of a made-for-TV movie. Some of it works, thanks to a central lead performance from “Sabrina: The Teenage Witch” star Kiernan Shipka, but most of the movie reverts her character to reactionary shots and observations about the era in which she is transported too. When she easily gets confidential information from a school secretary, she quips: “Wow, flying on a plane must be wild right now.” An obvious reference to pre 9-11 travel conditions. 

That joke would be amusing if it wasn’t a running gag deployed several times throughout the movie, as are a series of oral sex jokes that run out of fumes at about the hour marker. Shipka plays Jamie Huges, your average high-schooler who just wants to be free from her overbearing mother. You see, 35 years ago Jamie’s mom, Pam (Julie Bowen) was the lone survivor of the “Sweet Sixteen Killer,” a maniac who went on a Halloween rampage that killed three of her friends and naturally she’s worried the culprit will come back with a vengeance. 

Well, that’s what happens and it causes dire consequences that sees Jamie inadvertently get teleported back to 1987 via a time machine (don’t ask questions) around when the killer began offing Pam (now played by Olivia Holt) and her Molly Ringwald-obsessed girl squad (made up of Liana Liberato, Ella Choi, Anna Diaz). It forces Jamie to confront various social aspects of the era (cigarette smoke everywhere and how forensic evidence is basically non-existent), but mainly, she has to deal with her teenage mom who isn’t the beacon of compassion she had always assumed. 

This soul searching happens amid what can be defined as an extended episode of “Scooby-Doo” whereby audiences who pay minimal attention to the characters and their surroundings should be able to deduce the killer’s identity in a span of ten minutes. So, with the element of surprise all but squashed, that leaves the slasher shenanigans to do the heavy lifting and despite one decent sequence set inside a remote cabin in the woods, “Totally Killer” keeps things pretty generic, and like the town of “Vernon,'' where the movie takes place, the film doesn’t have an identity. 

It’s all filler and no….well, you know what I mean. 

Grade: C 

TOTALLY KILLER debuts on Prime Video Friday. October 6th.


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