Just in time for spooky season, Amazon recently debuted the time travel slasher movie Totally Killer starring Kiernan Shipka of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Marvel superhero Olivia Holt and Modern Family alum Julie Bowen.
In the sophomore film from Always Be My Maybe director Nahnatchka Khan, the Sweet 16 Killer has returned to the small town of Vernon in order to claim another victim over 30 years after his initial Halloween killing spree. Unfortunately for Jamie Hughes, the latest victim of this deranged individual was her mother. However, with the help of the time machine created by her best friend, Jamie travels back to 1987 to apprehend the killer and save her mom.
Totally Killer is an excellent addition to the pantheon of horror comedy movies built up over the years. It almost has the same feel as a Disney Channel Original Movie, except it has an R rating. And while there are a bunch of killing and suspenseful moments, the Sweet 16 Killer isn’t exactly as scary as the other iconic slashers of cinema such as Michael Meyers, Jason Voorhees, or Leatherface. The film is really perfect for those in the audience that are looking for more treats than tricks during spooky season.
But if you’re looking to continue the vibes of the new Amazon movie further into the most macabre time of the year and beyond, we’ve compiled a list of movies like Totally Killer from different genres.
Back to the Future
Throughout the film, Totally Killer references a number of legendary time travel films. But when you look at the foundation of the plot, it’s definitely inspired the most by Back to the Future. The first chapter in Robert Zemeckis’ seminal time travel trilogy introduced the world to Marty McFly, Doc Brown, and arguably the coolest time machine in all of pop culture.
Not only does the give Jamie a touchstone when she’s explaining her situation in 1987 (even though it’s still largely unbelievable to most people she talks to), the movie also helps establish the rules of time travel in this universe for the audience. It’s an easy way to explain the ripples in time that affect the present as Jamie attempts to help her mom in a similar fashion to how Marty helps his parents. Plus, it allows Randall Park to have a pretty funny moment when his character shares that he’s not a fan of time travel movies.
Honestly, if you somehow haven’t seen Back to the Future yet, we recommend that you rectify that as quickly as possible. Not just so that you can get all the references in Totally Killer, but since it’s quite possibly one of the best movies and trilogies ever made.
Watch on Peacock
While Totally Killer references a lot of time travel movies as the events unfold in the past and the present, it also plays with the tried and true tropes of slasher movies masterfully. One of the most renowned films for doing that in its day was Scream. The 1996 slasher from director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson gained critical acclaim for its meta-commentary and self-referential nature. But it also managed to subvert expectations by using the tools of the genre to swerve an audience that thinks they know what will happen next.
Naturally, moviegoers embraced this unique horror experience and turned the Scream franchise into one of the most popular horror properties of all time. It also ushered in a new era of teen-centric horror movies that continued into the 2000s.
Though it may not be the one that started it all, Totally Killer is part of a new wave of horror mash-ups like Freaky and the upcoming It’s A Wonderful Knife that remixes the genre with another unexpected genre. In a way, while it borrows plenty of elements from it and its predecessors, Totally Killer is more culturally similar to Scream in the sense that the trends they were a part of offer a whole new generation a different gateway into spookiness.
Watch on Paramount Plus
Pretty In Pink
In almost every teen movie, there’s a group of popular kids that rule the school. Mean Girls, Heathers and Never Been Kissed are just a few examples of films with these characters in prominent positions. And Totally Killer is no different. The four-girl crew that is targeted by the Sweet 16 Killer is known as The Mollys. This is due to the fact that they each dress like a different Molly Ringwald character. In honor of the iconic Brat Pack actor, it feels only right to include one her most well-known films on the list: Pretty In Pink.
Just like some of her most recognizable work such as The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, the 1986 cult classic romcom was written by John Hughes. This time, Ringwald plays Andie, an intelligent, independent social outsider who marches to the beat of her own drum. But when her childhood best friend and one of the most popular boys in the school both vie for her affection, she suddenly has a lot more to think about aside from the senior prom.
However, as renowned as Pretty In Pink has been for nearly 40 years, it’s highly likely that Jamie of Totally Killer has plenty to say about what makes Jon Cryer’s Duckie a bit problematic by today’s standards.
Watch on Max
Before he became obsessed with the Titanic or the Na’vi, revolutionary filmmaker James Cameron introduced the world to the robot apocalypse via the 1984 time travel film The Terminator. However, due to the expansion of the franchise over the years, it’s very possible that the majority of fans remember Arnold Schwarzenegger’s indestructible cyborg as the protector of John Connor and the Connor family.
But in the movie that introduces the mythology of this universe, the Terminator is actually hunting the unborn child who becomes a key figure in the war against technology in the future. In a way, it’s more horror than sci-fi as this futuristic killing machine is so relentless that even time itself isn’t enough to stop his pursuit of the target.
The Sweet 16 Killer in Totally Killer is the same way. Whether it’s in the past or the present, no matter how different the events play out, it seems like he’s going to take out his victims. Of course, in both cases, there’s a badass heroine standing in the murder’s way, so it’s great to see how wildly things don’t go the antagonists’ way.
Watch on Max
While Jamie is tasked with saving the victims of the Sweet 16 Killer in Totally Killer, she also has to find out his true identity along the way. Without spoiling anything, when she finally does uncover who the killer is, there’s a moment of “I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids” when the mask is removed. Naturally, since we’re on the topic of high school kids thwarting elaborate crimes, we have to talk about Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. gang.
Since the canine crimefighter’s debut in 1969, Scooby has starred in over 40 animated feature films and 14 TV shows (not counting his numerous guest appearances on shows such as Johnny Bravo, Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Supernatural). But in 2002, director Raja Gosnell and writer James Gunn brought Coolsville’s coolest detectives to life in their first live-action film.
Reviews were generally negative at the time, but Scooby-Doo still managed to become a cult classic thanks to the generation of kids who grew up with it. Though even with nostalgia goggles, the movie starring Freddie Prinze Jr, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, and Linda Cardellini, with Neil Fanning as the titular pup, remains a fun (albeit weird), low-stakes family comedy. If you want to continue on with a spooky streak after watching Totally Killer but have to spend time with the little ones, Scooby-Doo is the perfect way to test the waters for their tolerance for horror.
The Final Girls
Many horror films act as parables to teach the audience a lesson. Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell reminds us not to be selfish, Jigsaw from the Saw movies has a really twisted way of telling people not to take their lives for granted, and The Babadook offers solid advice about facing grief and learning to harness it in order to move on. But in Totally Killer, one message you could take away is that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Following the loss of her mother at the hands of the Sweet 16 Killer, Jamie is driven to do whatever she can to bring her mom back. But another character who wasn’t ready to let go of a parent is Max from The Final Girls.
In the 2015 movie from director Todd Strauss-Schulson and the writing tandem of M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller, Tessa Farming’s character gets pulled into a classic horror movie that happens to star her deceased mother. In addition to trying to evade a killer and get back to the real world, Max comes face to face with a person that she never thought she’d get to talk to again. When confronted with complex emotions and the opportunity to find closure, she finally finds a way to reconcile her feelings associated with her mother.
Considering that many modern movies about generational trauma like Everything Everywhere All At Once, Turning Red and Encanto are a huge hit with moviegoers these days, Max and Jamie’s stories are likely ones that would resonate with today’s audiences. But it certainly helps that they both present these familiar themes in very unique ways.
Hot Tub Time Machine
Throughout the history, there have been some very interesting time machines. We’ve already mentioned Doc Brown’s Delorean, but there’s also Bill and Ted’s phone booth, The Doctor’s TARDIS, Hermione Granger’s Time Turner, and The Flash’s Cosmic Treadmill. In Totally Killer, Jamie’s friend Amelia takes the time travel components designed by her mother and installs them in a photo booth. But as far as time machines go, one of the weirder ones has to be the hot tub from Hot Tub Time Machine.
Although, a peculiar choice of temporal manipulation apparatus isn’t the only thing that Amazon’s latest film has in common with the 2010 sci-fi comedy starring John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, and Clark Duke. Both movies travel back to the 80s in an effort to course-correct the events of the main characters’ lives. They also both draw heavy inspiration from Back to the Future, but what time travel movie made after 1990 doesn’t in some way? Regardless, Hot Tub Time Machine might be the best choice on our list if you’re looking to carry on the vibes that come with time traveling back to the 80s from the present.
Watch on Netflix