By now, time travel has become a tired trope in cinema. Several movies have used it to the point there is hardly anything new to discover in such stories. We all understand the implications of our actions, which change the trajectory of sequences henceforth. Yet, Kiernan Shipka starrer ‘Total Killer’ feels like a refreshing change. It is a mix of comedy, time travel, and slasher horror with a bit of conscious messaging.
Directed by Nahnatchka Khan, this Prime Video release can be considered a feminist retelling of Back to the Future – for its obvious plot similarities. Instead of shying away from admitting that inspiration, Totally Killer addresses it while critiquing the old, conservative worldview and the overall true crime obsession. Besides, there is enough reinvention of tropes to make it an entertaining watch. Spoilers ahead.
Totally Killer (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
What is Kiernan Shipka’s Totally Killer about?
Kiernan Shipka starrer ‘Totally Killer’ on Prime Video follows Jamie Hughes (Kiernan Shipka), who travels back in time to stop a series of serial killings. Before the time jump, we learn about the idyllic town of Vernon’s background. In 1987, i.e., 35 years before, three 16-year-old girls were stabbed 16 times within a short span of time. The serial killer wore a mask that later became a sensation during Halloween. People love wearing those masks and walking around the streets of Vernon. A local resident – Chris Dubasage (Jonathan Potts), even hosts a podcast solely about these incidents. It almost seems like he has nothing else going on for him besides this true crime tragedy.
The Killer Returns
Among the residents is Jamie – daughter of Pam (Julie Bowen) & Blake Hughes (Lochlyn Munro). Pam stays worried for Jamie’s safety even though the murders took place 35 years before. Meanwhile, Blake is worried about his growing age and not being as attractive or ‘jacked’ as he once was. Despite Pam’s resistance, Jamie plans to go out on Halloween night with her friend, Amelia Creston (Kelcey Mawema). That leaves Pam alone at home. Later that night, a masked man arrives on her doorstep. Pam thinks it is just another costumed person and decides to offer him candy. But the moment she notices a knife in his hand, she tries to close the door.
Amelia’s Time Machine
Unfortunately, the masked man walks into Hughes’ house and refuses to let Pam have even a moment of respite. Soon after, Pam takes her last breath. Her death shakes Jamie to her core. She refuses to answer any questions from the school principal or the police. Amelia shows the time machine she had been working on for a while at the school’s science fair. She mentions that she took inspiration from her mother – Lauren’s (Kimberly Huie) time machine designs. While Lauren stays busy at her regular job, Amelia takes forward her innovation. Meanwhile, Chris tells her that her mother received a note from the killer saying – ‘You’re next, one day.’
Later that night, Jamie gets attacked by a masked man. She runs away to save herself and, in that process, ends up entering the time machine. Since Amelia had put the exact date from 1987 when the first murder happened, Jamie ends up transporting to the same day. She understands that if she stops the Sweet Sixteen Killer’s original spree, she can also save her mother’s life.
Jamie’s Travel to the Past
Upon reaching the past, Jamie gets appalled by a series of offensive things considered normal. Be it racism or sexism, she witnesses the roots of them all. She walks into the school and introduces herself as an exchange student named Colette. Upon entering the school stadium, she notices the three girls who were murdered – Tiffany Clark (Liana Liberato), Marisa Song (Stephi Chin-Salvo) & Heather Hernadez (Anna Diaz). She also meets her mother’s teenage version (Olivia Holt), which seems far off from what she imagined. Unlike her belief, they were all bullies and not sensitive to the implications of their words.
Despite the culture shock, Jamie tells the girls to cancel a birthday party celebration – because that’s when the first murder happened. Since the girls refuse to cancel their big party plans, Jamie alerts Sheriff Dennis Lim (Randall Park) about a possible murder. He shrugs it off and considers it impossible in their idyllic town. So, Jamie tries to think of another solution. Since Lauren had worked on time machine designs, Jamie decides to meet teen Lauren (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson) – thinking at least she would take her seriously. Meanwhile, in the present, the police start searching for missing Jamie. While Amelia keeps mentioning it, almost no one believes her – besides Chris.
Does Jamie manage to stop the murders?
Jamie seeks help from Lauren and geeky teen Doug (Nathaniel Appiah), who becomes her school principal in the future. They show up at the birthday party and see the teen version of her own father. Considering his relationship with Tiffany, Lauren does not think Blake and Pam would ever be a couple. Nevertheless, Jamie keeps up with her attempts to stop the murder. But the masked killer ends up killing Tiffany before she can do anything. After this incident, Jamie uses the trauma of Tiffany’s death to bond with Pam, i.e., the teen version of her mother.
Since a time machine idea seems far-fetched to convince, Jamie tells Pam that she is a psychic. Pam buys into the idea of ‘seeing visions from the future’ rather than she would buy into a scientific possibility. Later, she ends up talking about Pam & Blake being a couple. As a caution, she tells Pam not to get closer to Blake for the time being. In the school, Jamie keeps coming across homophobic, misogynistic, and irresponsible behavior, which she cannot fathom. Still, to stop any possible killings in the future, she asks the group to plan a girl’s trip.
The Girl’s Trip
Pam and her friends drive up to an old cabin in the middle of nowhere. Jamie warns them about the possible danger, but none of them care for it. So we see how when the tables are reversed, Jamie becomes the responsible one among careless teenagers. As a result, everyone considers her ‘not fun enough’ for the party and locks her out of the cabin. Inside, Blake and Pam end up getting closer. Even though Jamie stays vigilant, a masked man arrives in Heather’s room and approaches her with a knife. With Pam and Blake’s help, Jamie gets back inside the cabin to stop the killer.
Meanwhile, Heather notices the killer and runs out of her room at the right time. The killer then fights against all the teens but leaves the cabin soon after. While Jamie tried to protect Marisa -because of the spree timeline she knew – the killer murders Heather instead.
Totally Killer (2023) Movie Ending Explained:
Who was the Sweet Sixteen Killer, and why did he attack the girls?
After Tiffany and Heather’s murder, the group gets back together at an amusement park on Halloween Night. With Lauren’s help, she turns a popular attraction into a makeshift time machine – to send Jamie to her present. Meanwhile, the group lures the killer into the haunted Dollhouse of Horror, where he attacks them. Jamie fights back with the killer, and he ends up hurting him badly.
Quickly after, they learn that the Sweet Sixteen Killer is Doug, who wants to avenge his girlfriend – Trish’s death. That is why he attacked the girls. One night in the past, Maria, Tiffany, and Heather got Trish drunk and made her drive them back home. They had an accident, which resulted in her death. However, Pam was not with them that night, making Jamie wonder the meaning behind the killer’s note that says You’re Next.
Who had killed Pam?
While Jamie tries to figure out the reason behind her mother’s death, Chris helps Amelia solve issues with her time machine. Meanwhile, Jamie and the group get attacked by a second masked killer. His sudden appearance shocks and surprises them. This person slits Marisa’s throat, then chases after Jamie, and ends up killing Chris’s father along the way. Eventually, the masked man and Jamie get into the time machine. That’s when she realizes the truth. This masked man is Chris from the future (Jamie’s actual present), who killed his mother. He is not the Sweet Sixteen Killer who killed three girls in 1987.
Why did Chris kill Pam?
Chris killed Pam to keep the fear of the serial killer alive – which fuels his true-crime podcast business. He is tired of being compared to his father, who was successful and far more influential. That’s why Chris wanted his one true obsession – the Sweet Sixteen Killings – to keep making people scared. To make up for content on the murder, he gave a fake note to Jamie. Anyhow, Jamie & Chris fight, which ends up with Jamie’s victory. Eventually, she safely returns to the present day to find her mother alive. But there are a few other changes that occur as a result of her time jump. She now has an older brother named Jamie, and her name is – Collette.