Totally Killer review: Political correctness meets the problematic ‘80s

Meera Jacka
Totally Killer review

Totally Killer combines time travel, blob-job gags, and teen murder for comedy horror that sees Gen Z transported to a farcical imagining of the ‘80s.

Dark and grim teen dramas have proven to be all the rage, with Riverdale a perfect example of how teenage angst, sex, camp, and violence sell. And Amazon Prime is seemingly taking notes with its latest comedy horror, Totally Killer.

Directed by Nahnatchka Khan and scheduled to be released to Prime this year on October 6, the film occasionally struggles with an overload of jokes that don’t always hit.

Nonetheless, Totally Killer proves why ‘80s throwbacks are still bloody fun as Scream meets Back To The Future and Kiernan Shipka embarks on a time-traveling quest to 1987 in hopes of saving her movie mom from a masked serial killer.

Gen Z faces the ’80s — and occasionally a serial killer

Shipka stars as Jamie, a socially aware teen who hasn’t got time for her overbearing mom. But it turns out her mom, Pam might just be right to worry so much. After all, in 1987 three of her friends were brutally murdered by the Sweet Sixteen Killer and he’s about to make his return.

Pam is stabbed to death on Halloween, despite a lifetime of karate training and mental preparation. Not long after, Jamie barely escapes the killer herself and is transported back in time with the help of her best friend’s school fair project and some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “science.”

Taking advantage of the bizarre situation, she decides to save her mom by stopping the killings from occurring in the first place. And if that sounds a little familiar, then don’t worry — you’re probably thinking of Stage 6 Films’ The Final Girls.

Jamie meets her mom
Totally Killer sees Jamie team up with her teen mom in the ’80s.

Yet Totally Killer is different in terms of pacing and tone; it’s farcical, a little goofy, and far more political, taking every opportunity to highlight and make fun of outdated ideologies of the time.

The ’80s teens deliver here with effortless brutality that captures something similar to that of Heathers, as seen in young Pam’s trailer line, “Well, maybe you should f**k off and die.”

But there were times when it felt like the actors were reading from a textbook in hopes of getting their message across, and stretches were spent waiting for that R-rating to kick in.

Luckily, when the kills finally come around, they are enjoyable and bloody. There are also plenty of easter eggs for horror lovers to spot as Totally Killer openly pays tribute to its slasher predecessors.

Intriguing subplots glimpsed under mountains of comedy

By leaning heavily into the film’s more comedic aspects, Totally Killer sacrificed some of its more interesting subplots. Most notably, what would stereotypically oblivious movie parents actually have been like in their prime?

For the most part, Totally Killer’s characters are vapid and one-dimensional, but this actually makes sense considering movie parents are far too often oblivious to their own teen’s antics.

Exploring what these parents would have been like in their younger years is a funny and unique approach, but one that feels underutilized.

It’s a shame too, because Olivia Holt shined as Pam and Charlie Gillespie’s caveman expressions as a teen Blake were absolutely hilarious. However, interactions between characters were mostly kept for quick-hitting jokes that rarely explored their interesting dynamics.

This made it difficult to get attached to or particularly care about any character’s fate, especially when one character’s entire personality was, “I don’t do blowjobs.” In this sense, The Final Girls was more engaging in how it managed to humanize its stereotypical characters while playing into their comedic strengths.

Still, the cast does well with the material they’ve been given and Shipka continues to impress after a successful run in the titular role of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Totally Killer characters are underutilized
Totally Killer’s teen characters are sadly not fleshed out enough to care about.

Totally Killer review score: 3/5

While it is unlikely to become a cult classic or reach the same level of fame as its predecessors, Totally Killer is an enjoyable watch that features a fantastic soundtrack, some hilarious moments, and a decent amount of blood.

Viewing it as an R-rated horror, however, one particular moment line from the movie comes to mind, “Let’s give it up for [me] who wishes there were more people killed.”

Totally Killer will be available to watch on Amazon Prime from October 6. You can sign up here.

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About The Author

Meera Jacka is an Entertainment and Trending News Writer on the Australian Dexerto team. She completed her undergrad at Curtin University with a double major in professional writing and publishing and creative writing, graduating with Honours in creative writing. A horror fan with a guilty pleasure in reality TV, Meera covers all things entertainment and trending news, with the occasional film and gaming content thrown in the mix. Contact Meera at meera.jacka@dexerto.com