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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, October 20, 2023

Totally Killer (2023)

It has been thirty five years since the small town of Vernon was terrorized by the Sweet Sixteen killer. Three sixteen year old girls were killed by being brutally stabbed sixteen times by a murderer that was never caught. Jamie, the daughter of the surviving forth girl Pam, is annoyed by how overprotective her mother is. This is especially so since nothing has happened for so many years. But then the killer returns for her mother, who puts up a good fight but dies. We also meet Jamie’s bester friend Amelia who is building a time machine for the science fair. Weird but I’m down with it.

The killer comes after Jamie, there is an accident, and the time machine works sending her back to nineteen eighty seven where she meets her mom and the soon to be dead friends. After the initial shock of finding out that her mom was a mean girl in high school she figures if she stops the killer in the past, they won’t be around to murder her mom in the future. Enlisting the aid of a teenage Lauren (Amelia’s mom whose plans she used to make the time machine) she goes about trying to change history. She does but it only results in changing the location and order of the murders. Can she stop the killer? Will she figure out who the killer is? Will she be trapped in the past? No spoilers from me.

Initially this sounded a lot like The Final Girls or Happy Death Day to me. I liked both of those movies so that was fine. That said I have to say that while the story is somewhat similar Totally Killer takes it in a different direction. There is some fish out of water humor, but it is tempered with some nasty kills. I’m not political but Jamie being triggered by “inappropriate” stuff from the eighties like the FBI (Federal Boobies Inspector) t-shirt or the problematic school mascot isn’t funny to me. But then we get to the dodgeball game, and I’ll admit it made me laugh. Plus, they don’t linger on this stuff but use it to show the character having to adjust to the past. In the end it was a lot cleverer and more nuanced than I thought it was going to be.

About the writing the story is great. It feels familiar but has some unexpected twists and turns. I can’t get too specific since I don’t want to spoil anything but the identity of the killer I didn’t see coming. Or well I sort of did, but there is an added layer that got me. The characters feel like those from an eighties slasher flick and are one dimensional existing only to up the body count, but that seems appropriate. The movie also leans into it making them as annoying or dumb as possible. They double down on the horror tropes and again that just feels right.

The kills aren’t overly complicated. Instead they lean in on the brutality. From the first kill of Jamie’s mother in the present to the deaths of the girls in the past the camera doesn’t pull away from them being stabbed sixteen times on screen while screaming. It was sort of disturbing in how the kills are staged. They also do a very clever bit with the first kill. The older Pam (Jamie’s mother) is played by a very recognizable face. Julie Bowen from Modern Family and Hubie Halloween (a personal favorite) dies very messily setting the tone for the rest of the violence in Totally Killer. That has a bit of a Psycho sort of surprise no one is safe vibe to it. This again goes back to how well thought out and written the script is.

Between this and Killer Book Club I’ve had some excellent luck recently with these new takes on the slasher genre. Should I press my luck? Probably not. Regardless this movie is well worth your time.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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