Great premise, wrong decade: Amazon’s ‘Totally Killer’ could have been fun with better direction

The terrific premise of Totally Killer is done in by a lack of visual flair—and confusing tonal shifts.

This Amazon Prime slasher film comes in with a good idea: A young woman (Kiernan Shipka) loses a loved one to murder in the present day. She then mistakenly time-travels to the ’80s, when that loved one was a teen, and must solve a series of murders—in order to save the loved one later on down the road.

Yes, Back to the Future gets mentioned multiple times, and yes, this film really rips off the Scream series—and that’s part of the problem: Totally Killer is supposed to be a sci-fi slasher set in the ’80s. However, the look and feel of the film doesn’t play like a movie set during the ’80s slasher heyday. (That horror decade basically kicked off with the first Friday the 13th.) It feels much more like a Scream movie set in the ’90s.

The usual scenarios are all in place. There’s a cabin in the woods, an amusement park, a teen party, etc.—but none of these slasher settings feels authentic due to a lack of imagination in the visuals, run-of-the-mill action and an overall cheapness in production value. Despite all of these great ideas, the film somehow winds up being dull.

When the film goes super-violent (and it does, often), with victims going out by way of the knife, their deaths owe more to Drew Barrymore’s horrific Scream demise than, say, Kevin Bacon’s goofy death by harpoon through the neck (and bed, for that matter) in Friday the 13th.

They could’ve just set the film in the ’90s and paid homage to that phase of director Wes Craven’s slasher career. When it comes to time-traveling back to the ’80s, Hot Tub Time Machine did it a million times better; this one takes all of the goofy spice out of the wacky decade.

The mysterious resolution does nothing to improve the film; it feels like cheating and leads to more confusion rather than finality. Totally Killer is a good idea that definitely could’ve been a fun movie—in the hands of a better director and set in a different decade.

Totally Killer is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

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Originally posted 2023-10-09 21:57:28.