Friday, October 06, 2023

Totally Killer, on Prime

All the best slashers take you back to an Eighties state of mind. This one literally takes Jamie Hughes back to the 1980s. Late in the awesome 80’s, the mysterious Sweet Sixteen Killer murdered three high school girls, stabbing them sixteen times. Then, suddenly, he reappears in 2023, killing her mom. Through an odd chain of events, she travels back in time to stop the killer in Nahnatchka Khan’s Blumhouse-produced Totally Killer, which premieres today on Prime.

For years, Pam Hughes was preparing for the killer’s return, like Laurie Strode in
Halloween (2018), but she wasn’t quite prepared enough. The killer targets her daughter next, but Hughes (as in John?) escapes in her best friend Amelia Creston’s science fair project, a time machine. Somehow, it works when the killer’s knife gets jammed in the control panel.

Obviously, returning will be a problem, especially since it needs wifi. Fortunately, Creston based her designs on plans in her mother Lauren’s old notebooks. The 1980s Creston will work on the technical problems, while Hughes tries to catch the killer, but it will be even more difficult than she expected. For one thing, the teen Pam and her mean girl friends are too busy partying to take her warnings seriously, until they start getting killed.

Screenwriters David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo score some laughs at the expense of 80’s attitudes that now look dated, as seen through the eyes of the woke-entitled Hughes. Yet, despite their intentions, the Reagan decade still looks like way more fun than our current scoldy watch-what-you-say times.

Surprisingly, their take on time travel is more consistently fun and entertaining. Hughes will indeed change things, but not always in the way she hoped. Murders still happen, but the victims and locations change. It turns out fusing slashers and time travel resulted in a fresh take on both.

As Hughes, Kiernan Shipka’s wry delivery of wisecracks has some snap, but the ultra-millennial perspective gets annoyingly self-righteous, often killing the fun, like a wet blanket. Both Julie Bowen and Lochlyn Munro are endearingly charming as her grown-up parents. Unfortunately, far less character development was invested in the 1980s kids. Maybe we can say they stayed true to the films that inspired
Totally Killer, in that respect. Regardless, the film’s biggest star might be the killer’s vaguely Lost Boys inspired mask design.

Totally Killer
is hip (sometimes even too hip) and peppy. It is not a slam dunk, but there are a lot of clever bits and the time travel business holding it all together is pretty cool. Recommended for fans of Blumhouse and 1980s slashers, Totally Killer starts streaming today (10/6) on Prime.