Totally Killer- Fantastic Fest Review

September 29, 202360/1006 min
Kiernan Shipka, Olivia Holt, Lochlyn Munro
Written by
David Matalon and Sasha Perl-River (screenplay/ story by), Jen D'Angelo ( screenplay by)
Directed by
Nahnatchka Khan
Run Time
1h 46min
Release Date
October 6th, 2023
Overall Score
Rating Summary

           You would think making a slasher movie would be one of the easier tasks, but it can be hard to come up with something that hasn’t been done already. Enter Totally Killer into the ring, a slasher flick with an intriguing idea: What if Back to the Future had a serial killer in it? After the credits rolled, my first thought was, “Damn, that was a bloody good time,” but also, “Why has no one ever thought to do this before?”

The year is 2023, and Jamie (Kiernan Shipka) is just a normal teenager. She is embarrassed by her parents and has no time for them, but her mom, Pam (Olivia Holt), is not just an ordinary mom. You see, in 1987, she and three of her friends were targeted by a serial killer. While she made it out alive, her three friends did not—they were each stabbed 16 times. Now, on Halloween night, the killer is back to finish what he started. After a fight, she joins her three friends in death. However, the killer is not done and comes after Jamie next. But somehow Jamie is taken back to the year 1987. You see, her friend Amelia (Kelcey Mawema) built a time machine out of a photo booth, and now Jamie has to find a way back home. First, since she’s here, she starts to make a plan to stop the killer of the future before he even starts. Armed with the knowledge of how it all happens, Jamie sets off to change history with the help of Amelia’s mother, Lauren (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson), and get back to her own time.

Written by David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo, Totally Killer delivers a fun slasher movie that still brings on the gruesome kills. I was worried, based on the trailer, that we would get something a little too cheesy. I mean, can a time-travel slasher movie even work? The first part plays more like a traditional slasher, but when back in 1987, Totally Killer  leans more into the comedy, exploring how a girl from 2023 reacts to life in 1987. The problem with this approach is that these jokes could get stale quickly. However, in this case, thanks to Shipka’s reactions, it never loses its charm. Nevertheless, Totally Killer faces its biggest challenge in finding the right balance between horror and humor—a hard line to walk. Fortunately, director Nahnatchka Khan does a fine job, although it does lose its balance at times; overall, it finds a good middle ground.

Totally Killer is not trying to be the nastiest or wittiest slasher out there. Instead, it aims to be a good time while showcasing some great knife skills. Some viewers might question  Totally Killer’s flexibility when it comes to time-traveling rules, as it tends to shrug away those movie version rules. However, it’s not trying to reinvent the wheel here. What it aims to deliver—a good time—it does so effectively. It achieves this by paying homage to the slashers that came before it and bringing about a decent emotional storyline, all carried by a strong cast, especially Shipka. Ultimately, it gets the job done, as there is more than enough here to enjoy and overlook any minor missteps the movie makes, in the both the past and the present.

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