Totally Killer Review: A Time-Travel Slasher Extravaganza

Totally Killer, directed by Nahnatchka Khan and crafted from the imaginative minds of screenwriters David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo, is an enthralling, suspenseful, and shockingly wholesome film that seamlessly melds elements of thriller, horror, and time-travel genres. Set against the backdrop of 1987, this film takes audiences on a roller-coaster ride through time, weaving a tale of suspense, nostalgia, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter.

The Good:

Totally Killer (2023).

At its core, Totally Killer revolves around a haunting premise: after witnessing her mother’s friends fall victim to the Sweet Sixteen Killer on Halloween night, Jamie, portrayed with exceptional depth by Kiernan Shipka, embarks on a journey back in time to 1987. This daring venture thrusts her into a race against time, forcing her to confront the killer before he can unleash his reign of terror, all while attempting to find her way back to her own timeline.

One of the film’s strongest points is its impeccable casting. Kiernan Shipka delivers a stellar performance as Jamie, capturing the character’s determination, vulnerability, and resilience with remarkable finesse. Julie Bowen, as Pam, the adult version of Jamie’s mother, exudes a mix of strength and vulnerability, anchoring the film emotionally. The seamless transition between Olivia Holt and Bowen as the teenage and adult Pam, respectively, adds a layer of authenticity to their shared role, highlighting the subtle nuances of their performances.

The screenplay, crafted by Matalon, Perl-Raver, and D’Angelo, masterfully navigates the complexities of time travel. The narrative is meticulously woven, incorporating intricate details and clever plot twists that keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The dialogues are sharp, poignant, and laden with underlying tension, adding depth to the characters and their relationships.

To be honest, it’s hard to find another film that traverses the subject of time travel as beautifully as this movie does. It’s extremely similar in tone to Christopher Landon‘s Freaky – a movie that’s most definitely a slasher at heart, but is also filled to the brim with wholesome vibes. It’s quite random, sure, but can we please see a crossover with this and Happy Death Day and Freaky?

Director Nahnatchka Khan deserves accolades for her exceptional vision and execution. She skillfully captures the essence of the 1980s, immersing the audience in a vibrant world of neon lights, retro fashion, and iconic music. The meticulous attention to period-specific details lends authenticity to the film, invoking a sense of nostalgia for viewers who lived through that era while providing younger audiences with a captivating glimpse into the past.

The film’s cinematography, helmed by Judd Overton, is visually striking. The juxtaposition of eerie, dimly lit scenes with the neon-drenched landscapes of 1987 creates a visually dynamic experience. The use of suspenseful camera angles and innovative visual effects intensifies the film’s overall impact, heightening the sense of dread and anticipation.

Additionally, the film’s score, composed by Michael Andrews, perfectly complements the on-screen action. The haunting melodies and pulse-pounding beats enhance the atmosphere, eliciting a range of emotions from the audience. From heart-pounding chase sequences to poignant moments of introspection, the music serves as a powerful narrative tool, elevating the film to greater heights.

Totally Killer is not merely a thrilling time-travel escapade; it delves deep into the themes of family, love, and the resilience of the human spirit. Through Jamie and Pam’s poignant relationship, the film explores the lengths a mother and daughter would go to protect each other, even across the barriers of time. This emotional core adds a layer of depth to the narrative, resonating with audiences on a profound level.

The Bad:

Totally Killer (2023).

However, the film is not without its minor flaws. At certain points, the pacing feels slightly uneven, with moments of intense action giving way to slower, contemplative scenes. While these moments contribute to character development, a tighter grip on pacing could have elevated the film’s overall intensity.


Totally Killer stands as a testament to the power of compelling storytelling and exceptional filmmaking. Its gripping plot, stellar performances, meticulous attention to detail, wholesome undertones, and emotional resonance make it a standout entry in the time-travel subgenre. The film’s ability to transport audiences to a different era while unraveling a riveting mystery is a testament to the talent and creativity of its creators. It’s also a great film to watch if you want to be put in a great mood, even with all the killings on-screen. This is sure to be a sleeper hit, so make sure to go check it out right away.

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Totally Killer Review: A Time-Travel Slasher Extravaganza
  • Acting - 9/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 9/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 8.5/10
  • Setting/Theme - 8.5/10
  • Watchability - 10/10
  • Rewatchability - 9/10
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About Caillou Pettis

Caillou Pettis is a professional film critic and journalist as well as the author of While You Sleep, The Inspiring World of Horror: The Movies That Influenced Generations, and co-author of Out of Time: True Paranormal Encounters. He has been writing in the entertainment industry for over seven and a half years professionally. Throughout the years, he has written articles for publications including Gold Derby, Exclaim!, CBR, Awards Radar, Awards Watch, Flickering Myth, BRWC, Starburst Magazine, Punch Drunk Critics, Mediaversity Reviews, Vinyl Chapters, Northern Transmissions, and Beats Per Minute.