Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

arts review

COLUMN: ‘Totally Killer’ is the campy Halloween film we need


Fans of classic films like “Scream” and “Back to the Future” will absolutely love the latest spunky horror flick from Amazon Prime. “Totally Killer," directed by Nahnatchka Khan, was released Oct. 6 — just in time for Halloween. 

Life takes a dark turn for protagonist Jamie Hughes (Kiernan Shipka) when a sudden murder shakes her small town. The Sweet 16 Killer made their debut in 1987, claiming the lives of three teenage girls. Now, 35 years later, they have returned to hunt down their next victim. Jamie must travel back in time and team up with her teenage mother Pam (Olivia Holt) to stop the killer’s original killing spree. 

I knew this film would be a wild ride when ‘90s icon Lochlyn Munro and Modern Family’s Julie Bowen appeared on screen in costume as Zac Efron & Molly Ringwald, respectively, in their portrayal of Hughes’ parents.  

After a harrowing encounter with the killer, Jamie finds herself transported back to the 1980s, in which she's immersed in a world saturated with the music of New Order and cheesy high school movie stereotypes.  

The comedy lies in the contrast between Gen Z Jamie and her new surroundings. From a “Federal Booby Inspector” shirt to an upcoming Reaganomics test, it is clear we are not in 2023.  

Whilst some lines may feel forced or sound as if they were written by grown adults who have never interacted with a teenager, “Totally Killer” is, at its core, campy fun. It’s a refreshing departure from the seriousness often associated with the horror genre, and audiences of all ages (well, maybe teens and up) can watch it together. Its unique blend of old references with new humor make it nostalgic whilst appealing to a younger generation. No one feels left out here! 

One of the most intriguing aspects of the film was its exploration of modern society’s obsession with true crime. In 2023, the film’s small town of Vernon is infamous due to the 1987 murder spree of the Sweet 16 Killer.  

 Pam’s peer and podcaster Chris Dubasage chronicles  every detail and theory in this cold case. The film begins with him leading his audience on a murder tour, stopping at old crime scenes that have been changed into chain restaurants. Jamie believes she can prevent these murders thanks to the information provided by Dubasage’s podcast. Through the obsession with finding the Sweet 16 Killer, “Totally Killer” hints at the destructive impact the fascination with a true crime can have on a community, leaving the victim's friends and family unable to move on amidst the hordes of tourists.  

While “Totally Killer” is no cinematic masterpiece, it’s okay to watch and enjoy movies that are a little less serious sometimes. With one hour and 46 minutes of mindless fun, it’s the perfect movie to curl up to at a sleepover — with just the right amount of jump scares to put you in a spooky mood.  

If you enjoy horror comedies, time travel or watching Olivia Holt in her mean girl element, this film is a must-see. 

Get stories like this in your inbox