Hollywood’s love of the Eighties slashers is back… from the future with Totally Killer, a neon-infused, nostalgia fest mashup of Back to the Future and Halloween.
Directed by Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh off the Boat, Always Be My Maybe), Totally Killer stars Kiernan Shipka (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) as Jamie, your typical angsty Gen-Z teenager who is transported back in time to 1987 after the notorious ‘Sweet Sixteen’ serial killer resurfaces, claiming the life of her ‘final girl’ mother.
Arriving back in the past, Jamie must team up with her teen mom (now played by Olivia Holt) to try and prevent the original killings, thus saving her future in the process.
The screenplay, by David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo, delivers on the promise of a fun time-travel romp, with Jamie’s bewilderment at the societal norms of the Eighties providing laughs as well as some insightful social commentary on the changing times.
Tonally the movie embraces its Halloween heritage with shots paying homage to the ominous stalking of a masked killer while still managing to inject some shock and flair, not dissimilar to Christopher Landon’s Freaky (another standout high-concept genre mashup).
Khan’s TV comedy show background brings a welcome confidence and credibility as the movie walks the tightrope between heartfelt emotional beats and situational humour. Some of the more hardline sci-fi fans will flinch at the time-travel rules, but the pace moves quickly and with enough lightness that it doesn’t weigh the movie down at all.
Shipka proves herself yet again as a compelling lead actress, smartly guiding the audience through the blended tonal landscape with ease. Delivering the laughs, the action and the heart of the movie, while bouncing off a solid supporting cast, Olivia Holt is doing her best Regina George impersonation while the appearance of Fresh Off The Boat’s Randall Park as the local Sherriff and Modern Family’s Julie Bowen as Jamie’s mum only helps to round out the comedic elements of the movie.
There is a slight low-budget made-for-TV feel to the whole thing, highlighted by some rather gimmicky CGI that at times leans too far from endearing as to be jarring. Fortunately, the John Hughes nods to Eighties high school culture means that some of the cheap window dressing can be easily forgiven and blossoms instead into an affectionate nostalgic feel.
Fun, scary and unsurprisingly a little bit silly, Totally Killer hits all the right notes in all the right places for horror fans who just want to have fun. An ideal Friday night fright flick that you can stream from home while looking longingly at your VHS tapes of Eighties slashers wondering if you still have the SCART lead for the player.
Totally Killer will be released on Prime Video on 6 October