Sci-fi-tinged horror-comedy mostly killer with very little filler.
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Comedy and horror can make the best of bedfellows. They’re both reactive genres of film looking to elicit either laughs or gasps from audiences. When movies blend these elements together expertly (I’m thinking of flicks along the lines of the “Scream” franchise, “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” “The Cabin in the Woods,” the “Happy Death Day” flicks and “Freaky”) it’s sublime. You can add the sci-fi-tinged “Totally Killer” (now streaming on Amazon Prime Video) to this list.
Jamie Hughes (Kiernan Shipka) is a teenager who thinks her folks Pam (Julie Bowen) and Blake (Lochlyn Munro) are totally lame. She wants to attend a metal show with her best gal pal Amelia Creston (Kelcey Mawema), but the overprotective Pam is hesitant to let her go.
The shielding Pam has her reasons – her girlfriends Tiffany Clark (Liana Liberato), Marisa Song (Stephi Chin-Salvo) and Heather Hernandez (Anna Diaz) were murdered at the hands of the masked Sweet Sixteen Killer back in 1987. As such Pam enrolled Jamie in self-defense classes at an early age and has the kid’s keychain adorned with mace and a rape siren. Pam’s also packing heat should the Sweet Sixteen Killer resurface.
Obviously, the Sweet Sixteen Killer resurfaces (otherwise we don’t have a movie!) prompting Jamie to employ the photo booth time machine (yeah, you read that right) Amelia built from plans by her mother Lauren (Kimberly Huie) to travel back to 1987 and put a stop to the Sweet Sixteen Killer before their bloodletting even begins.
Jamie’s a fish out of water in 1987 contending with casual racism and sexism. She claims to be a Canadian exchange student and enrolls in school with zero verification. It’s here that she meets (and gets bullied by) teen versions of Pam (Olivia Holt) and Blake (Charlie Gillespie). Jamie also teams with Teen Lauren (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson) to catch the Sweet Sixteen Killer and get another time machine up and running so she can return to the present day afterwards.
“Totally Killer” is directed by Nahnatchka Khan (Netflix’s 2019 romantic comedy “Always Be My Maybe”) and scripted by David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver and Jen D’Angelo (who previously worked with Khan on the NBC sitcom “Young Rock”). It’s a flick that’s bigger on fun (and funny) than it is on frights, but it still gets awfully gory at times. It has a bitchin’ 1980s soundtrack, tons of sex jokes and an appealing lead in Shipka (who’s almost always decked out in the same jacket Amanda Peterson rocked in “Can’t Buy Me Love”). I do think an emotional beat is missed by never giving Shipka and Holt’s characters a true heart-to-heart moment, but this is a small quibble in what’s otherwise a very enjoyable film.
If movies such as the horror-comedies referenced in my first graph, “Back to the Future” “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “The Final Girls” (that film’s director Todd Strauss-Schulson threw a bit of shade at this one on Twitter claiming it was too similar … I disagree and actually prefer “Totally Killer”) appeal to you in the slightest then this Spooky Season streaming offering should prove mostly killer with very little filler.