Merging 80s slasher violence with Back to the Future-esque time travel, Prime Video’s latest horror offering, Totally Killer, is one of the more unique genre mashups in recent years. Helmed by director Nahnatchka Khan, the plot follows high schooler Jamie (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s Kiernan Shipka) travel back in time to 1987 where she aims to stop the infamous Sweet Sixteen Killer from butchering her mum’s friends. What follows is a find-the-killer investigation punctuated with plenty of blood and a dash of humour, which pokes fun at the decade’s stereotypes and lax attitudes, the latter being a refreshing departure from the rose-tinted 80s nostalgia that’s overpopulated the genre.
The script proudly wears its horror influences on its sleeve. Not only are there various nods to Scream woven throughout the plot, but Halloween also has a strong presence within this film’s DNA. Alongside the killer’s rubber mask (which looks a little like grinning Will Poulter), there’s a sequence which pays homage to a famous scene from Carpenter’s film. Coupled with knowing winks towards other 80s flicks, there are plenty of in-jokes for film fans to appreciate here.
Shipka and the rest of the supporting cast (especially Olivia Holt and Charlie Gillespie as the younger versions of her parents) are tons of fun to watch and are what give this film its spark of personality. A handful of visual gags and a list of quippy one-liners from Shipka likewise make for an entertaining outing.
While Totally Killer has a strong sense of the genre classics that make up its foundations, it unfortunately lacks the bite to stand on its own two feet. The kills, though coming fast and frequent, are missing the ferocity of contemporary films like Freaky, The Babysitter, and Bodies Bodies Bodies. The mystery side of the script similarly falls short thanks to all-too-predictable final revelations that shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the formula.
Although this comedy-horror promises a tongue-in-cheek splatter-fest, it frustratingly only partially delivers on both its horror and comedy. But thanks to the committed performances from its cast and some genuinely funny moments, this is an enjoyable horror romp that’s worth seeking out.
Totally Killer is released on Prime Video on 6th October 2023.
Watch the trailer for Totally Killer here: