Notice: All forms on this website are temporarily down for maintenance. You will not be able to complete a form to request information or a resource. We apologize for any inconvenience and will reactivate the forms as soon as possible.

Totally Killer

Content Caution

Totally Killer 2023


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Emily Tsiao

Movie Review

Thirty-five years ago, in the small town of Vernon, three teenage girls were brutally murdered by a masked assailant right around Halloween.

The sheriff bungled the investigation, and the killer got away. The newspapers dubbed the masked man the “Sweet 16 Killer” since each victim was stabbed 16 times. But eventually, the people of Vernon moved on from those horrific events.

Well, everyone but Pam and Blake Hughes.

Jamie, their daughter, doesn’t understand why her mom hates Halloween so much. OK, the killer got away. So what? And yeah, people dress up like him for the holiday. Who cares? And sure, there’s a local podcast that directs murder tours of the crime scenes. What else is new?

It’s all a bit macabre. Still, Jamie’s parents have prepared her for the worst. She’s taken self-defense lessons since she was a little girl. She takes mace and a rape alarm everywhere she goes. She even carries the protection crystal Pam got from her psychic. Surely, they can trust her to go to a concert for one evening?

Unfortunately, Jamie isn’t the one they should be worried about.

While Jamie and her dad are at the concert, someone dressed as the Sweet 16 Killer breaks into their house and murders Pam.

Jamie’s heartbroken. And confused.

Why would the killer return after 35 years to kill Pam? Pam was nice. Everybody liked her. Certainly, there’s nobody out there holding a grudge. Right?

So why Pam? And why now?

Before Jamie can find any answers, she’s attacked by the Sweet 16 Killer herself. And in a Back to the Future Marty McFly moment, Jamie escapes death via a nearby time machine created by her best friend, Amelia.

She travels back in time to 1987, right to the day of the first murder. Amelia had speculated that if they could stop the first crime from taking place, perhaps they could save Jamie’s mom in the future.

Well, no time like the present, er, past.

Positive Elements

When Jamie’s mom dies, she immediately regrets the awful way she treated Pam. Jamie was rude, condescending and generally just an angsty teenager toward both her parents. Traveling to the past, she realizes that Pam acted very similarly towards her own mother. So Jamie tells the girl how much she truly loved her mother, encouraging Pam to do the same before it’s too late.

Jamie becomes something of a morality officer, calling out sexism, bullying and drunk driving.

Characters repeatedly risk their lives to save their loved ones. A few really rude and mean teenagers somewhat redeem themselves by helping Jamie try to stop the Sweet 16 Killer.

Even though the police gave up searching for the killer the first time around, we learn that Pam never gave up the investigation to bring him to justice.

Spiritual Elements

Time travel is a major plot point here, but it’s all explained through technology and science. Amelia tells Jamie that unlike Back to the Future, she won’t disappear if she accidentally stops her parents from getting together. Rather, she simply won’t have parents to come home to since they wouldn’t be her parents in the future. She also theorizes that the Mandela Effect (wherein mass groups of people remember past events differently) is the result of folks changing the past, meaning there are potentially other time machines out there.

When Jamie arrives in 1987, knowing way more about the future than she should, she pretends to be psychic. And she does, in fact, change many things in the past that trickle into her future.

A reporter says that God must be angry during a hurricane. A man says he’s praying for a family after they lose someone. A girl crosses herself in fear. Folks mistakenly believe a note contains a satanic symbol.

Characters dress at witches, mythical creatures and the Grim Reaper for Halloween. Vernon’s high school mascot is a devil. Jamie carries a protective crystal that Pam’s psychic gave to her. We hear a man moved into a monastery after becoming traumatized by his father’s televised death.

Sexual Content

Totally Killer really likes to play on the promiscuous teenager trope. Though we never see the act on screen, teens are constantly hooking up. And many of those teens are later murdered. But I digress.

Teenage couples make out and grope each other in several scenes. (In a couple of cases, a teen boy grabs his own crotch to emphasize it. And a teen girl draws attention to her breasts with her hands.) One couple is caught partially disrobed. Teens sit in a hot tub without clothes (we only see them from the shoulders up). Several teenagers wear swimsuits (including bikini tops) in a pool.

A young woman wears a midriff-baring shirt. Jamie is disturbed by the short length of the school-issued gym shorts she and several other girls must wear for P.E. in the ‘80s. Some teen girls talk about flashing drivers on the road. A woman reads what appears to be an erotic novel with a scantily clad man and woman on the cover.

We hear a ton of jokes about different sex acts and certain characters’ level of sexual activity. We learn about two different premarital pregnancies, including one involving teenagers (though the couples wed in both cases). And we hear a story about two middle schoolers whose braces got locked together when they kissed.

Jamie’s dad tells her that if he and her mom had gotten together in high school, they never would’ve lasted. So when Jamie accidentally lets it slip to a young Pam that the pair eventually weds, she finds herself trying to keep her parents’ hands off each other. (In one scene, she pushes them apart and begs, “Leave room for Jesus!”)

Pam, who doesn’t understand why Jamie is trying to keep her away from Blake, uses a rude term to imply that Jamie is gay. Jamie is upset by the comment not because she’s a lesbian but because it’s unkind. We hear about a girl who was bullied because her classmates thought she had had sex with the female gym coach (which was untrue). There is a gay pride flag in Jamie’s house. We learn about two men who are married and have a daughter together.

Jamie ogles two different guys before realizing they’re related to her. She’s upset by a shirt that reads “Federal Booby Inspector.” When a guy suggests that a girl would still be alive if she performed a certain sex act, Jamie immediately shuts that suggestion down.

Police suspect that Jamie’s mom cheated on her dad (though this turns out to be false).

Violent Content

This film begins by narrating the grisly murders of three teenage girls. It tells us that these victims were each stabbed 16 times. And we see police photos of the blood-filled crime scenes (as well as wax doll replicants).

From there, it only gets worse.

Seven more deaths take place on screen. And each of these is accompanied by a gruesome fight sequence. The female victims get beaten up and tossed around like sacks of flour. One girl is thrown over a staircase, cracking her body on the steps below. Other young women have their heads slammed into various pieces of furniture. More than one victim attempts to crawl away from the Sweet 16 Killer only to be easily caught and repeatedly stabbed. (He also slices one girl’s neck open from behind and stabs a man in the head.) And the killer doesn’t mind beating the snot out of those who attempt to help his intended victims either.

Speaking of those helpers, they deal some blows of their own. The teenagers band together to punch, kick, stab, crowbar and break vases over the killer’s head. One girl even attempts to shoot him with a gun. She misses, but even if she hadn’t, it’s hard to say if it would’ve worked. Being outnumbered doesn’t deter this serial lunatic. Neither does being stabbed. He just pulls the knife out of his own back and uses it to keep stabbing others.

Someone is killed by a scythe. A woman attempts to fight off an assailant using hidden guns around her home and knives from her kitchen. A teen boy describes a video game where bad guys explode in a shower of pink dust when players kill them. Later, we see a man die in a similar manner after he’s shot in the chest multiple times with a nail gun. We hear that a teen girl died in a drunk-driving accident.

A teen girl accidentally cuts her hand with a knife because she was too drunk and high to realize that it was her hand and not the food. We see several characters sporting cuts and bruises after their encounters with the Sweet 16 Killer. A woman finds her daughter bleeding on the floor after the killer attacked her.

During an intense game of dodgeball, several girls are whacked in the face, and one loses her retainer. Another girl receives a bloody nose, but her gym coach places the blame on her for not catching the ball instead of on the overly aggressive thrower.

A bully puts another teen boy in a headlock. The same bully throws a girl over his shoulder to remove her from a party. When he attempts to do so a second time, she uses self-defense to shove him into a kitchen counter.

Jamie notices a boy writing very violent statements (such as “shoot them all”) in a notebook. She also learns he spent time in juvie for fighting classmates. And later on, she kicks him in the face, believing he was going to hurt her. (He wasn’t, and she apologizes.)

Several teenagers watch a movie about killer robots, and we see characters getting shot in that film. A young woman states her belief that someone should have to kill at least six victims to be considered a serial killer. (And she’s condescended for her inappropriate comments since several people still died.)

[Spoiler Warning] Jamie eventually learns the Sweet 16 Killer’s motive. It turns out that Pam’s three best friends (“the Mollys” as they’re known around school) got one of their classmates drunk at a sleepover in order to find out if a nasty rumor about her was true. Distraught by their bullying, the girl left the party and attempted to drive home. But impaired by her inebriation, she crashed and died. The Sweet 16 Killer (and Jamie, too) blames the Mollys for the girl’s death and goes on his revenge killing spree. Near the end of the film, we learn of a second Sweet 16 Killer. And he justifies his own round of murders because his podcast about the original killer was losing interest. (He also kills his own father in the past because the man was allegedly more interested in his career than his son.)

Crude or Profane Language

There are about 25 uses of the f-word, including one spoken in Spanish with English subtitles. We also hear more than a dozen uses of the s-word, five uses of “b–ch,” two uses of “douche” and “a–” and one use of “h—.” Someone writes “burn in hell” on the locker of a deceased bully.

God’s name is abused 50 times—it seemed to be the phrase of choice in the ‘80s—once paired with “d–mit.” Jesus’ name is also abused twice.

People display their middle fingers on a couple occasions. Jamie says her favorite rocker is showing off his middle finger in a poster to single-use plastic.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Totally Killer plays on another horror movie trope: the substance abuser. Early on, Jamie and Amelia consume marijuana edibles for a concert. And when Jamie travels to 1987, nearly everyone there is using some sort of drug.

A woman in a parking lot laments that the ‘80s are almost over and she still hasn’t tried cocaine. When Jamie pointedly looks at the woman’s two young daughters, she dismisses it, saying they don’t know what drugs are. Additionally, the woman smokes cigarettes and copious amounts of marijuana (enough to hot-box her car) in front of her girls.

Teenage characters are constantly drinking alcohol as well as smoking marijuana and cigarettes. (They also eat a lot of edibles.) And their heavy state of intoxication leads to injuries, inability to fight off the story’s villain and even a death from drunk driving.

Most characters from the ‘80s smoke cigarettes. And the town’s sheriff even blows smoke into Jamie’s face to dismiss her.

A teen boy argues with Jamie that drinking makes him a better driver.

[Spoiler warning] We learn that marijuana is eventually legalized in Vernon due to Jamie’s actions. And the town sheriff is delighted since it was her drug of choice as a teenager.

Other Negative Elements

Several characters appear to be stalked by the killer, and the rising tension of Vernon causes people to turn against each other in fear.

Several people note the inappropriateness of turning a murder spree into entertainment. The Halloween costumes, podcast, murder tour and more are all criticized for profiting off the deaths of three young women.

Teenagers can be quite disrespectful to their parents. One teen girl manipulates her dad, who’s the sheriff. She steals drugs from the police station’s evidence locker, and she convinces her dad to get her friends out of trouble.

We hear about a carnival ride that causes people to vomit. A teen boy belches in a girl’s face.

Bullying is awful in the ‘80s, and characters constantly call each other mean names. Adult characters contribute to this by acting rudely towards each other and the kids around them.

When Jamie goes to 1987, she’s reminded that her school’s mascot used to be a cartoonish and racist representation of a Native American man called the “Red Devil.” We see many examples of sexism. And a reporter mocks a teenage boy for crying after his classmate dies.

Jamie is shocked to learn about the lax school security of the ‘80s. She’s able to register as a student without any documentation and later, she’s able to get a classmate’s schedule and walk into that class undeterred.

When a young Pam asks Jamie if robots take over in the future, Jamie tells her no but also says that they “rip apart the fabric” of society via TikTok.


You know, if Totally Killer served as the sole representation of the ‘80s, then it would be hard to believe that folks back then did anything but get high and get pregnant.

Jamie is shocked by the culture her parents grew up in—the casual attitude surrounding drinking and driving, the latent sexism, the incessant bullying. She tries calling some of this behavior out, to little effect. But that’s not where the film’s worst problems lie.

Totally Killer is actually a very apt title considering the film is totally filled with killings. But that’s not a good thing.

If Scream and Back to the Future got together to have a child, it would be this movie. Seriously, nearly every major plot point was taken from one of those films. A masked serial killer preys upon high school aged students (and later, upon the adult survivors and their children). Jamie escapes death by climbing into a time machine and then tries to make her parents’ future better by changing their past.

But if a derivative storyline isn’t enough to keep you away, then perhaps the film’s other issues will be. Harsh language, including the f-bomb and unnecessary abuses of God’s name (paired with “d–mit”) permeate the film.

Those murders I mentioned are just as gory as any other ‘80s slasher. Seriously, the Sweet 16 Killer does Halloween’s Michael Myers proud.

Characters seem to be perpetually drunk and/or high—which might explain why 1) the killer is so easily able to slay them and 2) why they can’t seem to take the guy down even when they manage to stab him.

And finally, the nonstop sex. We never see it on screen, but a few teens are caught partially disrobed making out. Everyone seems to be hooking up with everyone else. And when they aren’t offscreen copulating, they’re onscreen talking about it in vulgar detail.

In my opinion, Totally Killer is totally lame. But even if it wasn’t, those content issues should be enough to deter all but the most ardent horror seekers.

The Plugged In Show logo
Elevate family time with our parent-friendly entertainment reviews! The Plugged In Podcast has in-depth conversations on the latest movies, video games, social media and more.
Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.