‘Totally Killer’ Review: A Film With Franchise Potential

Prime Video Totally Killer

From the moment I watched the trailer for Nahnatchka Khan’s Totally Killer, I was hooked. The previews paint the film as a comedic throwback slasher that melds the present with the recent past, whilst serving up a memorable antagonist. And that’s not false advertising. The flick delivers on everything promised by its promotional material. It combines the subtle comedy of Scream with the seasonal slasher vibes of Halloween and a poignancy similar to The Final Girls. I found that mixture to be irresistible. I had a great time with it and I think you will, too.

The flick follows 17-year-old Jamie (Kiernan Shipka), who travels back in time and attempts to thwart a series of grisly murders that happened more than 30 years prior at the hands of the Sweet Sixteen Killer. Jamie must navigate the past without interfering with her future and ultimately find a way to get back to the present.  

Totally Killer is full of comedic energy. It prioritizes chuckles over chills, but I’m not upset about that. The characters are really well written. David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo script three-dimensional leads that carry the story when the arterial spray isn’t flying. The quieter moments never lag because the cast is fun to hang around with and their awkward exchanges and wry commentary had me laughing out loud on multiple occasions.  

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The film diverges from the conventional stalk-and-slash formula where a kill transpires every ten to fifteen minutes and instead opts for a more character-driven approach. Because the leads are equal parts amusing and endearing, the lower body count works. In fact, I actually found myself cheering for the cast to survive. 

Although this character-driven horror-thriller doesn’t have a staggering body count, it still manages to serve up some impressive exchanges that are simultaneously imaginative and intense. The third act showdown on a gravity-defying carnival ride is compelling and creative. That was the moment I realized where it was going, and I wished I had come up with the idea.  

In addition to a killer third act, the film also succeeds at intertwining the two distinct timelines in a way that sees characters from the past and present colliding in unexpected ways. That’s especially true in the final revelation. It surprised and delighted me in the best way. 

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Though the story concludes itself nicely, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing the return of the Sweet Sixteen killer down the road. An iconic mask and killer duds make the antagonist memorable and one that could easily be reactivated for another outing. There are multiple directions in which a follow-up could take the narrative. But my vote would be for a new killer donning the getup in a future installment, similar to the direction the Scream franchise has taken with each new outing.  

If there is a sequel at some point, I’d love to see Kiernan Shipka return. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina actress proves that she’s no one trick pony. She quite impressed me in her turn as Jamie. Aside from both being strong, capable characters, she brings Sabrina and Jamie to life very differently. Jamie is less impulsive and less conflicted. Shipka is also given the chance to shine by flexing her comedic chops a bit more here and I enjoyed it. 

Actually, the entire cast turns in impressive showings in Totally Killer, with each possessing a keen understanding of comedic timing. Julie Bowen is great in her brief turn as Pam, Jamie’s mother. Though her character isn’t a huge departure from her unforgettable stint as Claire on Modern Family, Bowen serves as a welcome addition to the cast. Moreover, she is given the chance to briefly demonstrate an impressive knack for fight choreography via a fast-paced showdown with the Sweet Sixteen killer. 

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I was also impressed with the film’s command of nostalgia. The soundtrack is full of ‘80s bangers. The picture makes effective use of iconic new-wave music, with each track serving to enhance the scene it accompanies. The hair styling and wardrobe are also on point, striking a balance that captures the spirit of the ‘80s without being so over-the-top that it serves as a distraction from the proceedings.  

All in all, I had a really good time with Totally Killer. The film features a strong lead in Kiernan Shipka and great casting across the board. The character-driven narrative kept me invested and the ‘80s nostalgia scratched a persistent itch. The killer makes for a memorable addition to the slasher pantheon and left me curious to see where a follow-up effort might take the action. 

Totally Killer is out now on Prime Video.

  • ‘Totally Killer'


This time traveling slasher picture is full of heart.

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