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Totally Killer Review

October 9, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Totally Killer Kiernan Shipka Image Credit: Prime Video
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Totally Killer Review  

I love the modern era of filmmaking.

I know some people rail against it because they seem to forget that there are approximately 8 million films out there being made besides superhero genre flicks (which I’m obviously a big fan of, too), but the thing about watching movies in 2023 is that I catch more movies by a more diverse set of filmmakers for budgets that have a wider range than I ever did prior to, say, the mid-2010’s.

To me, this is a real golden age of movies. Maybe not necessarily “cinema”, I suppose, but for films in general? I’m living my dream. It’s just that oftentimes I live my dream at hope in front of my TV instead of at the AMC a few minutes from my house. So if your argument is that your local cinema itself is overloaded with superhero flicks, I guess I can’t help with that. But bear with me here while I get into why that doesn’t matter!

I love streaming services. There is basically a never-ending stream (PUN!) of new movies being released, from little foreign indie horror flicks on Shudder to medium budget mini-blockbusters on Netflix. Movies that would not or could not have been made decades ago–or maybe if they had, they’d be reduced to Direct-To-DVD or becoming hard-to-find cult classics–are now so readily available to all of us! Superhero movies haven’t crushed the originality of films; how we watch movies–especially post-COVID–is what has changed.

So sometimes now we watch modern meta-slashers like Totally Killer in our home on Prime instead of in the theater. And even as someone who LOVES the cinema–I have the AMC Stubs A-List and go at least once a week–I personally have zero qualms about that.

Nahnatchka Khan’s Totally Killer is the story of sixteen year old Jamie Hughes accidentally traveling back 35 years into the past in her friend’s improvised time machine after a serial killer from the 80’s returns and kills her mother on Halloween.

Back in the past, Jamie relives the week where her mom’s three best friends were brutally stabbed to death by The Sweet Sixteen Killer. She tries to use her knowledge of the events to save her mom’s friends without changing anything for the worse in the process.

The movie comes across as quite similar to 2015’s The Final Girls, another mother-daughter slasher-comedy that takes a meta look at how slasher flicks would work if a character had knowledge of what was supposed to happen. The story of a daughter reunited with a past version of her dead mother through the use of nebulous science fiction is even there, too. And while, for my money, The Final Girls is an overall better, more complex movie, Totally Killer still gets a lot right.

What I like here is the use of the Mandela Effect to explain historical changes. Because in this universe, time travel neither creates branching timelines nor is a plate of spaghetti (whatever the hell that metaphor was supposed to be in The Flash). Time is portrayed as a constantly moving stream (there’s that word again); you can leave and enter the stream at different points, but all parts of the stream are constantly moving forward.

It makes more sense if you watch the movie, but the way this creates little Mandela Effects in the characters who remain in the present is quite creative.


+ I absolutely love horror-comedy, and slasher-comedy in particular. At least as long as it’s well-crafted. And Khan crafts this story with a solid hand. We are introduced to many characters early on so we can try to remember how everyone’s interactions all work together when we see the dynamics between their past selves. And it somehow never becomes overwhelming. The film metes out all the details you need in such a fashion that you flow with the story instead of getting left behind.

So a well-above-competently made flick of one of my favorite genres? I was all the way in.

+ Kiernan Shipka, of The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina fame, has now put out two incredibly strong performances on streaming this year. First was Wildflower, the story of a girl raised by two cognitively-impaired parents, and now we have Totally Killer. She is setting herself up for a slow updraft into potential A-list territory with her resume. I am looking forward to anything and everything she comes out with next.

TK may be a fun little slasher-comedy where too much isn’t necessarily asked of Shipka, but she gives it her all anyway, and she just radiates charisma. She’s a brilliant lead here, funny most of the time, but bending the movie to her other moods when certain scenes call for it. She has such a professional command of presence at her age.

This is a mystery movie where it’s virtually impossible to guess who The Sweet Sixteen Killer and what their rationale is without really just throwing out wild, disconnected speculation. The information you are given DOES matter, but the relations between characters just isn’t established until the moment of the reveal.

As someone who sucks at piecing together mysteries, this doesn’t bother me far too much–I don’t expect to solve the case anyway–but if you are the type where you want to be a step ahead and prove your own deductive skills, this could be a disappointment.

The late third act gets a bit wonky for reasons I won’t get into for fear of spoiling them here, but after the killer gets revealed, the flick takes yet another turn to keep its runtime going. It adds another layer of tension and suspense, and it’s a believable enough turn I guess, but it all feels a bit extraneous. Like the screenwriters lost some restraint and decided they wrote themselves into a corner and wanted to have multiple resolutions instead of settling for just one.

And don’t forget to check out the Stew World Order podcast, where we review random comic book movies with our guests, such as Tyler Breeze of NXT, WWE, and UpUpDownDown fame!

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
I dig that a lot of the humor here doesn't come from "Didn't people dress and talk weird in the 80's", and more from "Look how society itself has changed in regards to what is or is not acceptable". We've seen the former a hundred times, so Totally Killer brings us something new. And it does so with solid writing, great humor, and a charming lead performance.

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Totally Killer, Rob Stewart