Tyler McIntyre (director and writer), Chris Lee Hill (writer), Pawel Pogorzelski (cinematographer), Martin Pensa (editor)
Alexandra Shipp, Brianna Hildebrand, Kevin Durand, Craig Robinson (cast)
October 20, 2017 (USA)
This movie is fucking great. Like *spoiler alert* I really, really love this movie.
Tragedy Girls feels like a vital piece of my teenage girlhood that I’ve only just discovered I was missing. It’s a film with such understanding of horror tropes, movies, and lore that still somehow never once falls into the trap of so many satirical movies by playing into the tropes they’re meant to be subverting. When was the last time that you saw a black woman lead a slasher movie, let alone survive a genre satire? Even meta-tentpole Scream 2 immediately kills both the black leads in the opening after commenting on how black people never survive.
You might know Alexandra Shipp for her turn as Storm in 2015’s X-Men: Apocalypse, but her role in Tragedy Girls gives her the space to truly shine, a powerhouse of killer cuteness and beyond-her-years horror.
Joining her for this super serial killer team-up is Negasonic Teenage Warhead herself, a.k.a. Brianna Hildebrand. The pair are an utter delight to watch, something akin to a modern day Thelma and Louise if the iconic pair were devastatingly cool teen girl sociopaths. Tragedy Girls throws us straight into the twisted world of McKayla (Shipp) and Sadie (Hildebrand), childhood BFFs who also happen to be burgeoning psychopaths. From its opening moments, the film sets out its agenda to exploit and subvert all the tropes that you expect from a teen horror movie without ever exploiting the teen girls it revolves around.
One of the film’s strongest moments comes in the third act when we see the girls chose each other and their passion over everything that surrounds them: the boys, the school drama, and the popularity. Despite the fact that they’re essentially picking mass murder, there’s something oddly moving about a film that centers on two women and their friendship—a friendship that they put above all else. Though the pair’s central performances are at the core of what makes Tragedy Girls fantastic, writer/director Tyler Macintyre’s film is a joyous thing to behold with a fantastic main cast, quotable script, and slick editing (which really makes sense as most of Macintyre’s over forty plus film credits are as an editor).
In a world where everything is blamed on millennials, it’s very easy to target the young and and the things they love. But where recent films—like director McG’s garbage attempt at teen satire, The Babysitter—end up humorlessly skewering the protagonists, Tragedy Girls solidly satirizes the perceived emptiness of social media and the timeless desire to be remembered. At the same time, the film manages to create interesting and complex characters who are worth caring about and investing in. The movie is heavily based in the online world as the titular Tragedy Girls run a true-crime vlog which they hope will make them renowned celebrities… and who cares if sometimes they have to commit the crimes themselves.
As the girls descend into full blown slasher mode, the film becomes even more inventive. A particularly funny hurdle the girls meet is that their brutal kills are too smart and look too much like accidents—”That is some real Final Destination shit,” states Sadie exasperatedly—making it hard for them to stoke the fear they need for true notoriety in their small town. The film is filled with moments and plot beats that subvert familiar tropes from the teen horror genre without ever seeming tired or overdone.
Though many recent films have tried to stake a claim in the meta-textual heavy horror genre, Tragedy Girls stands head and shoulders above the rest. It’s a taut, humorous, and surprisingly touching take on a genre that should be dead and buried by now. Long live the Tragedy Girls.