Totally Killer: Is Sweet 16 Killer Based on a Real Serial Killer?

Image Credit: James Dittiger/Prime Video

Prime Video’s ‘Totally Killer’ introduces the audience to a new masked serial killer, adding to the list of iconic characters like Michael Myers, Ghostface, Jason Vorhees, and Leatherface, to name a few. The Sweet 16 killer in the movie targets 16-year-old girls and stabs them 16 times. The film follows Kiernan Shipka as Jamie, who travels to 1987 to catch the killer in the past so that he doesn’t kill in the future. The horror comedy develops a legend around the serial killer, which plays into the plot of the story very well. If you are wondering whether the creators of the movie looked towards any real-life serial killer to craft this character, here’s what you should know.

The Inspiration Behind the Sweet 16 Killer

‘Totally Killer’ is a fictional film based on an original screenplay by David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo. All the characters in the movie are entirely fictional, including the Sweet 16 Killer. While there have been real-life serial killers that have targeted teenage girls, the film doesn’t seem to have been inspired by anyone specific. The character is created to serve the film’s plot, which means that everything about him had to be very specific to what the story demanded.

When it came to creating the look of the killer, director Nahnatchka Khan knew that the mask was the most crucial element of his person. She wanted it “to feel original, but it had to feel of the time, like something that could exist back then” in 1987. However, because part of the film takes place in the present day, she didn’t want to completely commit to a retro look, which means that they had to find a balance that Khan described as “this sort of Gen Z energy going into this John Hughes world.”

Khan knew it was essential to bring a unique look to the killer to set ‘Totally Killer’ apart from other movies in the genre. “It’s got to feel familiar, and then it’s got to be scary on top of that. When the killer appears, you’re either nervous that he’s about to appear, or when he’s on-screen, you’re just tense. I think the look of the killer to me was a big piece of everything,” she said.

After a lot of brainstorming, the filmmakers settled on “the idea of a handsome man being scary.” Khan collaborated with makeup artist Tony Gardner to find the right look. For references, they looked toward the 1980s heartthrobs in Hollywood and created an amalgam of that to give a unique look to the mask. She also mentioned that everyone on the team agreed that the mask had to be blonde. It was probably because one of the influences for the design was Kiefer Sutherland’s character in Joel Schumacher’s 1987 vampire movie, ‘The Lost Boys.’

Apart from the mask, the Sweet 16 Killer’s persona and killing style were also what the filmmakers paid special attention to. Khan referenced some classic horror films and was inspired by certain frames in those movies, which she incorporated in ‘Totally Killer.’ Calling them “touchstones,” the director named ‘Scream,’ the original ‘Halloween,’ the original ‘Friday the 13th,’ and the original ‘Evil Dead’ as the titles that had the most influence in making up the killer character.

With all this in mind, it’s clear that the creators of ‘Totally Killer’ looked more towards fictional serial killers, especially in the slasher genre, to create another serial killer that could be a part of pop culture. So, if the Sweet 16 Killer scared you, worry not. It doesn’t have any real-life counterparts and is entirely fictional.

Read More: Where Was the Horror Movie Totally Killer Filmed?