When was the last time that you had to pick your jaw up off the ground after a good slasher film? Though I have a pretty open mind when it comes to viewing various horror tropes and suspending disbelief, I admit that it's been a long time since I've had a cinematic adventure that felt completely unique and also managed to totally work on every disturbing level. I'm pretty forgiving when a film tries to break the mold with a fresh take on a the predictable genre, but it is incredibly difficult to stray too far from the formula without taking the audience out of the experience with whatever trick or gimmick is being employed to set the film apart from the rest of the fray. Tyler MacIntyre's new film TRAGEDY GIRLS not only breaks the mold, it smashes it against the wall, takes a picture of it, and gets a million "likes" on all of its socials. To say this film flips the horror/dark comedy script is the understatement of the year as TRAGEDY GIRLS unapologetically and effectively tells a wholly brand new kind of story about budding sociopaths in the age of social media.
TRAGEDY GIRLS is set in the "everytown" community of Rosedale, where a recent slew of mysterious murders has been met with a decidedly mediocre reaction from law enforcement who don't want to cause a panic while they try to connect the dots between the incidents. In the meantime, teenage murder fetishists Sadie and McKayla have started their own social media brand, Tragedy Girls, attempting to bring the current violent trend to the forefront while making them the internet darlings that they dream of being. The girls have zero problem exploiting the people and families who have fallen victim to the heinous crimes, even hatching a plan to lure the killer himself into their elaborate macabre scheme. When the girls succeed in nabbing the madman, their plight turns purposely grisly as they embark on a psychotic spree in order to keep the town terror alive and further amp up their social media profiles.
Obvious comparisons will be drawn between TRAGEDY GIRLS and its cinematic grandmother HEATHERS, but while the latter is certainly dark, the former is completely pitch black. There's no J.D. here coaxing an unwitting Veronica into faked suicides. In fact, Sadie and McKayla go to great lengths to ensure that the current string of homicides aren't mistaken for self-slaughter or even as accidental. In order to gain even more instafans, they need to continue the narrative of a killer on the loose by any means necessary. And I do mean any means. Think Mickey and Mallory meet Cher and Dionne, with young and confident women who need no prodding from a male cohort to be alarmingly sadistic on their own.
Featuring a Kevin Williamsonson-like sensibility with massively clever dialogue and references throughout, MacIntyre manages to make his characters likable even though you never exactly root for them. Despite the pithy back and forths and OMG demeanor of the high schoolers the film revolves around, MacIntyre pulls zero punches when it comes to the splatter factor. Every kill tops the one before it like some sort of sick competition with a master level study in gruesome ingenuity that will have gorehounds cheering at every bloody turn.
As Sadie and McKayla, Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp, respectively, completely slay as the sinister duo. While Hildebrand aptly conveys the more nuanced "brains" and possible heart of their ghastly operation, it is Shipp's straight-up sociopath that really makes heads turn. Shipp is catty, irreverent, and perfectly balances her portrayal of the lurid McKayla with equal parts giddy and grim, creating one of the most memorable bad girls in cinematic history.
If there could be any complaint about TRAGEDY GIRLS, it might be that it's insanely over the top, nevertheless it's exactly this extreme degree of exploitative gusto that makes the film work in the first place. Even the subtle nods- like spilled coffee artfully clouding a pool of blood- could seem excessive yet aptly serves to illustrate the contemporary context in a well worn genre. Additionally, it's always fun when the baddies in a story are actually the protagonists, and I was delighted to find that TRAGEDY GIRLS never sold out the concept by switching lanes in the third act. No, these girls are bad bishes through and through and even though it's impossible to truly cheer on these actual cheerleaders, their brand of unabashed evil is thoroughly entertaining. So, if you are in the mood to get your Halloween feels on with a clever and hardcore escape into adolescent macabre, check out TRAGEDY GIRLS in theaters starting today.
Until next time...
aka Annette Kellerman