Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kent State chapter.

When I sat down to watch “Totally Killer”, I was expecting a pretty standard slasher film experience. I knew there was a time-travel aspect, but aside from the occasional “Back To The Future” reference, I wasn’t expecting a ton of differentiation between this movie compared to many of the other horror films I’ve been watching this fall. 

My favorite part of Halloween time is the mystique of it all. While I may have given up on meeting a vampire or suddenly harnessing witchy powers that I never knew existed, this time of year allows for just a little bit more pretending. Obviously, my favorite way of doing this is by watching horror movies. 

Something that a lot of people tend to criticize horror films for is the absurdist nature of their stories. Things that are so unrealistic, so implausible, that audiences have a hard time finding the stories believable. The thing that most of us value the most about storytelling is the relatability of the characters and plot being sold to us. When a movie about mermaids and werewolves comes into play, it can be hard for the average person to relate to such a character. 

“Totally Killer,” however, was just absurd enough to be compelling. The time-travel plotline seems just plausible enough thanks to the lack of concrete explanation. Rather than trying to figure out a realistic and believable way to explain the technology behind the time-travel machine built by the main character Jamie’s (Kiernan Shipka) best friend Amelia (Kelcey Mawema) and her mom Lauren (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson/Kimberly Huie), the film chooses to keep details vague. 

The movie focuses on Jamie as she deals with the aftermath of her mother’s death. Her mom, Pam (Olivia Holt/Julie Bowen), had been a survivor of the “Sweet Sixteen Killer,” a serial murderer who took the lives of three of Pam’s best friends during Halloween weekend 35 years ago. The killer comes back years later, finally doing what he set out to do all those years ago–get rid of Pam. As Jamie suddenly finds herself head-to-head with the murderer at an abandoned fairground, he ends up accidentally stabbing part of the time machine that the characters had been working on previously. Jamie is transported back to 1987 and is suddenly the last hope to change the fates of her mother and her friends. 

The “rules of time travel” are provided by a teen Lauren, the only character who fully understands and believes Jamie’s claims. Providing answers to common questions like: Will the decisions made here affect the future? How will the main character make it back to the present? This allows the audience to quickly accept things as is, without trying to contest the logic behind the story. 

With the insane amount of pressure the characters face in “Totally Killer” it’s no surprise that the stakes feel higher than that of a realistic film. When comparing a psycho-killer who’s after your family in two different dimensions to a story about long-lost love, it is easy to see which would provide more urgency within its storytelling. 

Absurdist fiction is a literature genre that uses things like surrealism, irrational logic, existential topics, satire, dark humor and more in order to tell a story. “Totally Killer” utilizes many of these elements within the film, most notably with the use of time travel. The comedic elements of the film help to make the characters, particularly Jamie and Pam, more likable, and allow for the audience to feel more connected with the story. 

While “Totally Killer” may be considered just another slasher movie, its use of absurdist storytelling allows for a more nuanced examination of its plot, and opens up an important conversation–why do we need surreal circumstances in order to feel fear, when there’s already so much scary stuff going on in the world? In all reality, watching a movie that is so disconnected from us makes us feel safe. The adrenaline we get from horror movies can be achieved through watching something we know will never happen to us. And that fact is enough to keep fear from taking over.

Hannah Planey

Kent State '26

Hey! My name is Hannah, I'm twenty, and a huge pop culture junkie. I love all things Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift, Glee, and sitcoms. I'm a sophomore at Kent State University, and a part of the editorial staff at Her Campus! I am majoring in journalism and minoring in creative writing, and am really into writing in all of its forms. I hope to work in the entertainment industry as well as media in the future, and am so excited to be a part of Her Campus!