Tragedy Girls Brianna Hildebrand Alexandra Shipp review stillYear: 2017
Director(s): Tyler MacIntyre
Writer(s): Chris Lee Hill, Tyler MacIntyre, Justin Olson
Region of Origin: US

Rating: R
Color, 98 mins

Synopsis: Two teenagers turn real-life tragedy to online fame with the help of their blog. (Source)

High school is horrific enough, but what happens when there are a pair of social media obsessed serial killers on the loose as well? That’s the fun premise behind Tyler MacIntyre’s Tragedy Girls. MacIntyre’s film is a slasher for the Insta age, a clever blend of Heathers, Mean Girls and Scream, but way more savage. Don’t worry though, MacIntyre’s film is larger than its influences, thanks in part to his irresistible sense of style and ingenuity, which mimic the here today, gone tomorrow mantra of a culture obsessed over the next big viral trend. In addition, Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp are utterly unmissable, lending the film its charm, shivers and smart subversion. Plain and simple, Tragedy Girls is a sinister delight for all types of horror fans, tracking two sociopathic BFFs and the lengths they’ll take to earn internet fame and each other’s hearts, metaphorically, and maybe, literally as well #NBD.

When we first meet Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp), they’ve captured the serial killer whose been terrorizing their small town and are taking him to task. The girls happen to be budding investigative journalists, feeding off of the town’s misfortune through their blog, Tragedy Girls, and believe that their prey isn’t giving them enough juicy content, to say the least. After locking the dejected killer away, they decide to take things into their own hands, kickstarting a series of murders guaranteed to send more likes, followers and RT’s their way. Of course, as they’re both high school girls contending with a lot of peer-based drama, teenage politics come in to play and threaten to tear the two apart. While Sadie and McKayla attempt to stay on brand, their secret soon becomes too big to contain, and as the bodies pile up, they attract some unwanted attention.

The sheer fun of the film is its subversion of genre tropes we’ve seen so many times before. The entire thing kicks off with the requisite make-out sesh, but just when things start to go down a familiar path, the film (and its characters) consciously avoid cliche. See, Sadie and McKayla have seen all the same horror movies we have, and its their thirst for originality topped with a twisted sense of humor that drive everything, resulting in murders that play up absurd chain reactions and give Final Destination-type gore an fresh spin. Taking things further, MacIntyre doesn’t skimp on the blood and guts, aiming for the head to give a lot of his death scenes inventive, unflinching decapitations. All the murder and mayhem, however, does tie into Sadie and McKayla’s longing for internet validity, a theme that transforms into a biting social critique about immediate self gratification. There’s also a smart dissection on the disconnect between real life and the digital personas we perpetuate online, which is somehow miraculously tied into Sadie and McKayla’s sweet but morbid friendship. Long story short, this film’s got the arterial spray and the feels.

Tragedy Girls Brianna Hildebrand Alexandra Shipp review goreSince Sadie and McKayla’s friendship is front and center, the film would be nowhere without the infectious performances of Hildebrand and Shipp. Hildebrand’s Sadie is the arthouse horror fiend, looking for any chance to build the Tragedy Girls brand no matter what. Hildebrand has a ferocity that’s magnetic and horrifying all the same. As for McKayla, Shipp shines with raw charisma and a duplicity that sneaks up on us. Whereas Shipp was stifled in last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse, here she gets to truly shine, transforming in a way that we don’t expect. On the side, there are some killer supporting characters by way of Craig Robinson, Josh Hutcherson, Jack Quaid and Kevin Durand – I don’t need to spoil how they play in to it all, but trust me, they’re great.

For the sake of full disclosure, Tragedy Girls is the most fun I’ve had with horror in a good while. The genre is ubiquitous nowadays, but so little of it leaves a mark. MacIntyre’s timely spin is sharp and kinetic, and Hildebrand and Shipp’s chemistry could make the film watchable even if it weren’t already great. While too many teen-centric stories chase trends as a shallow attempt to steal the spotlight, MacIntyre’s film has purpose and a demented sense of humor, using its social satire to face brutal truths with absurd sting.

SG