Thirty-five years after the shocking murders of three teens, an infamous killer returns on Halloween night to claim a fourth victim. When 17-year-old Jamie comes face-to-face with the masked maniac, she accidentally time-travels back to 1987. Forced to navigate the unfamiliar culture, Jamie teams up… MORE
Initial release: 2023
The quickest description is Back to the Future meets a mash of Scream and Happy Death Day. But Totally Killer offers a funhouse full of other genre wink-winks in a violent, raunchy, rollicking good time that often works in spite of itself.
Director Nahnatchka Khan and a writing team relatively new to features riff on everything from the Disney Channel to Sixteen Candles to Ace Ventura and beyond as a terrific Kiernan Shipka leads us on a life-saving mission back to the late 80s.
Shipka is Jamie Hughes (natch), a high school junior who is completely dismissive of her mom Pam’s (Julie Bowen) plea for caution on Halloween night.
See, back in late October 1987, three of Pam’s friends were murdered, each stabbed 16 times by a still-unknown masked assailant dubbed the “Sweet 16 Killer.” A true crime podcast host (Jonathan Potts) clues us in on the details, and the reasons why Pam is still skittish this time of year.
But Mom is one of the many townsfolk Jamie scoffs at, until her best friend Amelia’s (Kelcey Mawema) photo booth time machine turns out to actually work! So Jamie steps out of it and into ’87, where she’ll try to infiltrate her teen Mom’s (Olivia Holt) clique “The Mollys” (in tribute to Ringwald) and prevent those infamous murders from ever taking place.
And then, of course, she’s got to get back to…that place that is forward in time.
“I hate time travel movies. They never make any sense!’
So says the 80s sheriff (Randall Park) when Jamie tries to explain her predicament via Michael J. Fox, kicking off a self-aware string of consistently clever gags. And the veteran Shipka (Mad Men, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) proves charmingly adept at navigating the two generations with determined sass.
Jamie’s got a mission and she won’t be distracted by these oversexed heathens and their lack of boundaries!
“Hey, inappropriate touching!”
“This mean girl schtick is really outdated.”
And don’t even get her started on the lack of wifi or having to watch her future parents get handsy!
Shipka is irresistible, and she goes a long way toward keeping this mix of blood, sex, nostalgia, a Mandela effect discussion and F-bombs on the rails whenever it flirts with flying off. And there’s plenty of flirting.
But even when things get stabby, Khan brings a bright and shiny touch. There are helpful reminders about who these oblivious teens are young versions of, and some earnest explanations about what Marty McFly got wrong about time travel.
Totally Killer wants to play by its own rules of inspiration, tell you about it in advance and then yell “high five!” when it all works out.
Don’t leave ’em hanging. It’s a bloody fun time.