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Totally Killer (2023) Review

If you mixed Back to the Future and Halloween, or if The Final Girls had involved traveling in time instead of into a movie, the results might be something like Totally Killer. It’s a time traveling spoof of slasher movies from Blumhouse who already visited this territory with Happy Death Day and its sequel.

The fact it was from Blumhouse was just one of the reasons I debated watching Totally Killer. It was directed by Nahnatchka Khan, who is best known for Always Be My Maybe and Young Rock and had no genre experience. Similarly, the three writers David Matalon (In Three Days, The Clearing), Sasha Perl-Raver (Let’s Get Married) and Jen D’Angelo (Hocus Pocus 2, Quiz Lady) were lacking in that regard as well. But since it was also supposed to be a comedy, I still held out enough hope to sit down and watch it.

Thirty-five years ago, in the days leading up to Halloween, The Sweet Sixteen Killer claimed three victims in the town of Vernon, all of them sixteen years old, all of them were friends, and all of them were stabbed sixteen times. The killer was never caught and vanished without a trace.

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Jamie Hughes (Kiernan Shipka, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Mad Men) has plans to go to a Halloween night concert, much to the dismay of her overly protective parents Pam (Julie Bowen, Modern Family, An American Werewolf in Paris) and Blake (Lochlyn Munro, Cosmic Sin, Detective Knight: Redemption). They should have saved that worry for themselves as the killer comes back to get the one girl they missed, Pam.

It just so happens that Jamie’s friend Amelia (Kelcey Mawema, A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting, Rules for Werewolves) is working on an unusual science project, turning an old photobooth into a time machine based on her mother Laura’s (Kimberly Huie, Deep Impact, City on Fire) unfinished plans. What they didn’t know is it just needed a knife through the control panel to make it work and send Jamie back to 1987, just before the killings start.

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Perhaps fortunately given the filmmakers’ lack of experience with the genre, much of the humour in Totally Killer doesn’t come from the slasher elements, although there are moments like Jamie trying to convince the cops she’s from the future and knows there’s about to be a murder. Instead, it, like Back to the Future, concentrates on fish out of water and culture shock gags for laughs.

Jokes about the lack of security consciousness before 9/11, about people smoking every and anywhere, and the casual sexism and homophobia of the era abound. And they frequently involve the younger versions of the adults we met at the beginning of the film. That includes finding out her mother and her friends were the stereotypical mean girls.

There’s also a running gag of her having to cock block her parents to be, played by Olivia Holt (Same Kind of Different Me, Cruel Summer) and Charlie Gillespie (Julie and the Phantoms, Speed Kills) so they don’t get together until after college and make sure she has a present to return to. Thankfully the younger version of Lauren (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, Let’s Scare Julie, Sex Appeal) is already smart enough to do a Doc Brown and give her hope of getting back.

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While horror takes a back seat for most of Totally Killer’s running time, the final act does have some tense moments and the scenes on the Quantum Drop are fairly inspired. And while it isn’t too hard to figure out who’s doing the killing, there is a neat twist involved. But it still seems like they put more thought into the effects of Jamie’s trip than the entire slasher plot line.

While casual fans will probably enjoy it, Totally Killer won’t really satisfy serious horror fans. It does have a few decent moments and the jokes mostly work, so it’s worth watching, but it’s probably not a film you’ll come back to in the future.

Total Killer is an Amazon Original and available on Amazon Prime.

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