Horror is catching up with social media and its potential as a source of the horrific. Over the last few years, the horror genre has given us Unfriended, The Den, and the dreadful Friend Request. Each of these movies exploited the anonymous cruelties of our “likes’ based culture. Earlier this week, I reviewed the fun #FromJennifer that hits on many of the same ideas. Directed by Tyler MacIntyre, Tragedy Girls is higher-budget, conventionally filmed exploration of the same social media obsession and homicide. Think of Tragedy Girls as Mean Girls meets American Psycho.
High school best friends McKayla and Sadie are your typical teenagers. They’re cheerleaders and sit on their school prom committee. Both worry and obsess followers and likes on their Instagram accounts. And they also happen to be psychopaths. When they turn the tables and catch a serial killer preying on their small town, McKayla and Sadie decide to commit their own murders to drive up followers on their true crime blog, Tragedy Girls.
Bloody Fun That Will Leave You With a Teenage Lobotomy
From its opening scene, Tragedy Girls delights on playing on audience expectations and subverting them. Little time is wasted getting the ball rolling. It may be a film about teenagers but you can be rest assured that this is not a PG-13 film. In the opening minutes, McIntyre delivers a quick machete to the head. Moments later, “besties” McKayla and Sadie are cutting up and disposing of a body. It’s a movie where body parts are cut and carved with an almost manic energy. Victims are hung, shot, and stabbed. In the film’s best kill, a victim’s face is introduced to a buzzsaw. Like the best horror comedies, McIntyre relishes in giving the audience the same blood-letting his main characters enjoy. Most of the deaths are over-the-top, but it fits the film’s overall tone and the strong gore effects sell it.
Of course, Tragedy Girls works so well in part because the violence is delivered with an abundance of sharp, dark humour soaked in pop culture references.
Of course, Tragedy Girls works so well in part because the violence is delivered with an abundance of dark humour. Our media-savvy killers reference Breaking Bad in one scene while dumping body parts into acid. Later they name-drop Final Destination after another freakishly inventive murder. The dialogue is smart and witty in contrast to most slasher films. Its meta-based pop culture humour is clearly inspired by movies like Heathers and Scream. We’ve seen a growing number of these more ‘meta’ oriented films so Tragedy Girls does risk feeling too familiar. Fortunately, the script is clever enough to keep the film from feeling like just a rehash.
Totally ‘Fetch’ Performances
Tragedy Girls could have come across as a one-note Heathers rip-off. but it’s elevated by a smart script and excellent performances from its lead actors. Based on a screenplay by MacIntyre and Chris Lee Hill, Tragedy Girls offers a few twists in the road, effectively shifting audience expectations. While it’s certainly another take on the slasher subgenre, its story does enough differently to keep even veteran horror fans on their toes. More importantly, MacKayla and Sadie are invested with some actual real human qualities, which is impressive considering their characters are also psychopaths. Some viewers may feel the inclusion of a love interest for Sadie and its threat to her friendship with MacKayla was unnecessary, but it adds some layered complexity to the film’s characters. Moreover, the film’s screenplay deals with this development in a manner consistent with the original premise.
Both Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand score big assists. Each actress gives a winning performance, delivering their lines with smarmy attitude one would expect from their characters. They also make you believe in their characters’ friendship, eliciting a surprising amount of empathy for MacKayla and Sadie. Interestingly, both actresses have ties to Marvel. Shipp played Storm in the most recent X-Men: Apocalypse. Fans will recognize Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead from the Deadpool movies. Craig Robinson also has a small in the film. While he largely plays it straight, his death is hilariously over-the-top.
Tragedy Girls Is A Date Worth Making
It doesn’t necessarily trend new ground, but Tragedy Girls is wickedly fun. It manages the difficult task of balancing bloody gore with snide humour. With great performances and a clever script, Tragedy Girls marks another effective and biting commentary on our growing social media obsession. Some viewers may find the meta-based humour tiresome. that’s been around since Wes Craven gave us Scream may be starting to feel a little old, but Tragedy Girls will still manage to feel fresh for horror fans.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: A-