By David T. Valentin
Totally Killer features high-school girl Jamie, played by Kiernan Shipka, as daughter to the sole survivor of a murder spree—Pam, played by Julie Bowen— that happened 36 years ago, in 1987. After Jamie’s friend Amelia invents a time machine, because it’s just that campy type of horror film, Jamie decides to travel back in time to try and prevent the killings of her mother’s three best friends. Turns out, her mother was a total mean girl—a member of what their high school called “The Mollys.” With the help of the younger version of Amelia’s genius mother, Lauren, Jamie tries to get back to her time while also trying to solve the murder with her now teenage mother Pam.
Totally Killer’s plot at first seems straight out of a Disney Halloween story. A girl travels back in time to help solve the murders of her mother’s friends and hopefully save each friends’ lives. But as soon as Jamie finds herself transported back to 1987, the campy humor begins.
As Jamie maneuvers through 80s culture, she finds things were even more different than she expected. Chain smoking in a closed-off car with children, Hooters uniform gym clothes, and bad 80s weed, Totally Killer makes fun of it all, while still somehow keeping up the mystery, gore and horror of an 80s slasher horror. Even the jump scares keep you on your toes, making sure you never know whether it’s the killer or just another terrible cultural norm from the 80s.
Kiernan Shipka also proves herself yet again as a spooky Halloween icon, after her role in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Leaning into the camp vibes of Sabrina, Kiernan lands her jokes with finesse while also knowing when to shift tones to a more serious vibe and, when she needs to, Kiernan balances the two hand-in-hand perfectly.
Immediately after watching Totally Killer, I wanted to have a night with my friends or boyfriend, sit at the edge of our seats and shriek and laugh together. Totally Killer leans into its campy vibes so much that when it switches gear back to its horror roots, I found it actually (strangely) scares you more than when you’re watching a simple slasher horror. Which, personally, is my favorite kind of horror because I can’t really stomach straight up horror!