Totally Killer Review: A Failed Attempt at Genre-Blending
“Totally Killer” attempts to carve out its own space by blending teen slasher and time-travel genre elements, but without either of the chops to pull it off. The film, directed by Nahnatchka Khan, stars Kiernan Shipka as Jamie, a modern-day teenager who finds herself transported back to the 1980s, where she must navigate a world of casual misogyny, big hair, and, most importantly, a killer on the loose.
The film’s premise is undeniably intriguing, echoing classics like “Back to the Future” and “Happy Death Day.” It’s a Halloween offering that aims to be both a perky comedy and a suspenseful horror, but the execution leaves much to be desired. While the film does make some inspired choices, such as flashing back to the present day to keep the audience engaged, it often falls into the trap of being overly familiar. The film’s attempts at self-aware humor, name-checking other movies, and relying on genre tropes, come off as more smug than clever.
One of the film’s strengths lies in its exploration of the culture clash between the ’80s and the present day. Shipka’s character, Jamie, serves as the audience’s surrogate, her progressive Gen Z sensibilities often at odds with the retrograde politics of the time, but it’s not enough to elevate “Totally Killer” above its derivative nature.
Where the film truly falters is in its lack of atmospheric direction and its failure to effectively stage its slasher scenes. The kills lack suspense or menace, and the visual style is as bland as a daytime soap. This is particularly disappointing given the film aims to be a horror-comedy, a notoriously difficult combination of genres to nail.
Sadly, “Totally Killer” is a film that promises much but delivers little. Its attempts to blend comedy, horror, and time-travel tropes result in a mash-up that lacks the charisma to make its concept sing. While it does offer moments of cultural insight and features a mostly engaging performance from Shipka, these are not enough to save it from its shortcomings.
RATING: 2.0 out of 5
Totally Killer is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.