It’s a shadow which has hung over the town of Vernon for over three decades, the Sweet Sixteen Killer who murdered three girls over the course of the week leading up to Hallowe’en but who was never captured or identified, Tiffany Clark, Marisa Song and Heather Vernandez, each sixteen years old and stabbed sixteen times, their best friend Pam Miller, now Pam Hughes, having raised her daughter Jamie to always be aware of her surroundings and to be ready to defend herself.
Now, thirty five years later, the Sweet Sixteen Killer is back and Pam is his first victim, Jamie herself his next target, saved only by the ingenuity of her best friend Amelia who was trying to invent a time machine based on her mother’s designs, a knife in the works throwing Jamie back to 1987 and the week of the first killings, realising she can change history and save her mother if she can get anyone to believe her warnings.
Fully aware that comparisons will be made with Back to the Future, the exasperated and increasingly desperate but always resourceful Jamie (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s Kiernan Shipka) gets there ahead of time by using that as her opening gambit with the indifferent police presence, a self-aware nod in a film which is Totally Killer, directed by Nahnatchka Khan from a complex script written by David Matalon, Sasha Perl Raver and Jen D’Angelo which powers forward like smoothly oiled clockwork as it jumps genres and decades.
A slasher horror which makes its own rules as it explores time travel, the most difficult subgenre of science fiction to master, the incremental changes in the past aren’t enough to save the historic victims, only shift the specific details of their demise, the ripples to the present cause Amelia and podcaster Chris (Kelcey Mawema and Jonathan Potts) to experience something akin to the Mandela Effect with an awareness of both timelines and the growing disparity between them even as Jamie faces the culture shock of an era when a hashtag was just a musical notation rather than a call for social awareness and acceptance, Jamie constantly struggling to comprehend and compensate for her irresponsible elders.
Facing two deadlines, the need to unmask the killer before he vanishes on Hallowe’en night and the dwindling power on the cellphone which is her only link home, like Marty McFly the challenge Jamie faces of completing her self-appointed mission is complicated by having to interact with people she knows without revealing her identity or compromising the future, and with many of the characters represented in both time frames full praise is deserved by the casting team for teaming the adult and teen performers convincingly.
Jamie never sure if she is garnering strange looks because she is on the right track, making herself a potential target, or because she herself is acting so strangely, only able to fully trust Amelia’s mother Lauren (Troy L Johnson in 1987, Kimberly Huie in 2023), the roster of suspects racks up as fast as the girls go down and there are as many dead ends as dead bodies, Totally Killer as sharp as a comedy as it is as a horror and using every minute of the time it has to squeeze the life out of its ridiculous premise.