Gotta get back in time to stop this killer.
Slasher comedies are able to enter new territories, like how “Happy Death Day” channeled “Groundhog Day” by placing Jessica Rothe’s Tree Gelbman in a time warp or “Freaky” when Kathryn Newton swapped bodies with Vince Vaughn’s serial killer. Now, “Totally Killer” borrows the “Back to the Future” and “The Terminator” concepts. Meaning time travel can work in various ways. Ways we can’t always seem to grasp, but try to.
Here’s the deal.
The Sweet Sixteen Killer is a man who wears a mask that looks like Max Headroom, and he murdered a bunch of girls back in 1987, including the first victim Tiffany Clark (Liana Liberto from “Scream VI”), who was just celebrating her Sweet Sixteen. Hence the name: the Sweet Sixteen Killer. He’s been gone for 35 years. It’s all explained by investigative journalist and podcaster Chris Dubasage (Jonathan Potts).
We meet Jamie Hughes (Kiernan Shipka from “Mad Men” and the English dub of “When Marnie Was There”), whose mother Pam (Julie Bowen) gets slaughtered by that same killer, thus making her his first victim in 35 years. Her BFF Amelia (Kelcey Mawema from “Two All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”) has made a Time Machine out of a photo booth to try to go back in time to stop the killer.
Then when the killer chases Jamie into the booth, she ends up in the year 1987 before he strikes. At this rate, Jamie knows more about “Back to the Future” than Tree Gelbman would if “Happy Death Day” had a sequel involving time travel (“Happy Death Day 2U” dealt with the multiverse, but that’s beside the point).
Also this rate, she enrolls in her high school (back when things weren’t so logistic), and enlists help from Lauren, the teenage mother of Amelia (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson), for guidance about how to survive the timeline. You know the Butterfly Effect, before Quantum Physics even existed. So many questions about how to survive the past. Tell me about it.
And this rate, her mom, who is sweet and brave today, was a snooty, mean shrew in her teens (Olivia Holt). That is until Tiffany gets murdered, and Pam tiptoes a friendship with Jamie.
On the side, Jamie’s father is Blake Hughes (Lochlyn Munro), who has his goofy and lovable appeal as a dad. In his teens (Charlie Gillespie), he had a sexy body and long hair. And in their teens, he and Pam tend to get horny, and it wouldn’t be very good odds for Jamie if they got to Third Base soon.
Some of the mean behaviors of the teenagers get exhausting, but at least, they don’t rely on FU for comedy gold the way “Strays” did. Some of them can be redeemable, some not so much. But you end up admiring how Tiffany tries to make her teenage mom a better person.
“Totally Killer” is produced by Jason Blum, whose horrors levitate between comedy and horror or maybe individually under his Blumhouse studio, and directed by Nahnatcha Khan (“Always Be My Maybe”), who seems to be entering Christopher Landon territory in this genre. And she also guides Shipka, Bowen, Holt, Munro, Gillespie, Johnson, and Potts with various tastes in likability.
Blum also produced “The Exorcist Believer,” which is in theaters and disrespects the classic horror film. This one is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and respects time travel movies. Ones that had no iPhones back then.
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA strike.