Totally Killer’s Time Travel Rules Explained


Warning: This post contains spoilers for Totally Killer




  • Totally Killer adds some new rules to the time travel genre, making it a genre mashup of slasher horror and time travel shenanigans. It crafts its own narrative around a different set of parameters.
  • The time travel rules in Totally Killer involve using extra metal alloy and needing a strong Wi-Fi signal to transport through time and space effectively. Any involvement in past events can alter the present day directly and changes occur simultaneously across different time periods.
  • The film incorporates the concept of the Mandela effect, where memories and facts surrounding the original Sweet 16 Killer case are altered and resemble ghost-like memories. The protagonist’s disappearance and return to the present cause all of her memories to face the Mandela effect, while other characters have false memories to her.

Time travel movies can be confusing, and Totally Killer adds some new rules to the genre to change things up a bit. Directed by Nahnatchka Khan from a screenplay by David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo, Totally Killer is a genre mashup that combines slasher horror with time travel shenanigans. And just as movies like Back to the Future and Avengers: Endgame have their own takes on time travel — how to go back in time and come back, etc. — Totally Killer crafts its own narrative around a different set of parameters.

Totally Killer sees Kiernan Shipka’s Jamie Hughes head back to 1987 after being chased by the Sweet 16 Killer, who killed three of her mom’s friends in high school and — 35 years later — Jamie’s own mother. Luckily, Jamie’s best friend Amelia had a time machine, but traveling back to the 80s came with its own set of obstacles. After all, the concept of time travel is fickle and doesn’t always make sense, even after it’s explained. Totally Killer more or less sticks to the basics, with a few changes to differentiate its time travel rules from other movies. With time travel being what it is, the outcome turns out differently.

Totally Killer’s Time Travel Rules Explained

totally killer time travel rules

Totally Killer’s time travel rules aren’t too complicated to follow, but they do add a couple of things that make them stand out. For one, Amelia’s time machine only worked by adding extra metal alloy. It also needed a strong Wi-Fi signal to be able to transport Jamie through time and space effectively. Without a strong enough signal, Jamie would have been stuck in the past forever. One of the biggest time travel elements in the film involved what Amelia and her mother referred to as a river. Any involvement in past events could alter the present day directly, when the changes first occurred in 1987.

That’s because time was happening all at once in the film, and anything Jamie changed in 1987 would reverberate downstream, affecting and ultimately changing the present day without notice to those in the present. Typically, audiences wouldn’t see how the changes are occurring in real time, but Totally Killer opts to showcase how they’re happening at once instead of waiting for Jamie to come back to reveal the differences. What’s more, Jamie wasn’t supposed to reveal too much about the future to anyone in 1987, but she did, which automatically changed the outcome of her life.

How The Mandela Effect Applies To Totally Killer’s Time Travel

totally killer time travel

The Mandela effect is mentioned in Totally Killer, with Amelia explaining to Chris, the true crime podcaster, that he’s experiencing it because he thought he remembered something about Tiffany’s crime scene that no longer happened due to Jamie’s involvement in 1987. The Mandela effect is a phenomenon involving a group of people experiencing false memories they believed was reality — like the general belief that Nelson Mandela died in the 1980s when he actually died in 2013. Totally Killer’s use of the Mandela effect is a bit different because the memories and facts surrounding the original Sweet 16 Killer case aren’t false at all, but more like ghost, dream-like memories.

They happened, but they were erased from existence; the false memories are now an echo of something that occurred but has been lost to Jamie’s timeline changes. Totally Killer’s characters face altered memories, caught between what happened originally and all that was changed and solidified by Jamie’s return to the present. Jamie’s disappearance from and return to the present likely means all of her memories are facing the Mandela effect, but without the adjustment the other characters faced. Everyone else’s memories are now false to Jamie, and she has to play catch-up.

What Makes Totally Killer’s Time Travel Rules Different

totally killer movie

Totally Killer references Back to the Future and Avengers: Endgame, both of which utilize time travel and have particular rules about it. Totally Killer is more in line with Back to the Future’s time travel explanation, but rather than use a flux capacitor to provide the time machine with its fuel to travel back and forth through time, the photo booth requires a strong Wi-Fi connection and enough metal alloys. And whereas Endgame saw the Avengers capable of hopping through time without affecting the present so long as they returned the Thanos’ Infinity Stones to their proper place, Totally Killer doesn’t see time as linear at all.

This differentiates it from Back to the Future as well, with all of Jamie’s actions simultaneously impacting the time stream at all levels. The river effect means that things keep flowing without stopping, and once changed solidify without much of a trace save for the Mandela effect. The latter is something that neither of the aforementioned movies bring up. And while there are plenty of time travel films that tend to use similar logic when it comes to the rules, Totally Killer offers a refreshing angle.