Tragedy Girls 2017
Tragedy Girls, a twist on the slasher genre following two death-obsessed teenage girls who use their online show about real-life tragedies to send their small mid-western town into a frenzy and cement their legacy as modern horror legends.
Chris Lee Hill and Tyler MacIntyre
Alexandra Shipp, Brianna Hildebrand, and Josh Hutcherson
McKayla Hooper and Sadie Cunningham (played by Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand respectively) are a detestable breed of Millennials I refer to as Soul Vampires. Through their blog, “Tragedy Girls”, they seek fame through the exploitation of others’ misery; they feed off despair like parasites. But this dastardly duo doesn’t merely seek to exploit the sadness within their community—they are active participants in the process. While most high school seniors worry about losing their virginity before going to college, McKay and Sadie don’t want to graduate before committing their first killing spree.
Official Synopsis: Tragedy Girls, a twist on the slasher genre following two death-obsessed teenage girls who use their online show about real-life tragedies to send their small midwestern town into a frenzy and cement their legacy as modern horror legends.
Tragedy Girls is a gruesome R-Rated slasher that seems designed for today’s TV-addicted horror junkies. Not only does it have the look and feel of a television show, the cast list is overflowing with TV veterans. Look for appearances from Craig Robinson (The Office, Ghosted), Timothy V. Murphy (Sons of Anarchy), and Nicky Whelan (From Dusk Till Dawn). Tragedy Girls rarely gets deeper than a 45-minute TV episode of the latest teen-centric horror offering; MTV’s Scream is, by comparison, a tangled web. The film is easy on the eyes and the brain; like the shallow antiheroes who anchor the film, everything about Tragedy Girls is completely transparent throughout. No twists, no turns; just a couple of minor reveals. It’s something I like to refer to as “horror bubble gum”.
Tragedy Girls is overloaded with barbed commentary, specifically regarding fame-obsessed, technology-addicted millennials. McKayla and Sadie measure their success and self-worth by the number of likes and follows they receive online, a condition not uncommon among the Internet Generation. They are completely dependent on social media, as we see from their inability to separate from their electronic devices. Even when one of them is advised to stop “Checking In” lest they reveal their whereabouts to a fugitive serial killer, she replies: “I’d rather die.” In a telling scene, we even see a local police office distracted by a text while on the job; as more Millennials enter the work force, it’s time to wonder: Will technology addiction lead to a major downturn in both effectiveness and productivity? Time will tell.
Everything implied by the film’s title, Tragedy Girls, is intentional; it instantly conjures associations with Gossip Girl, Mean Girls, and all those other teenage bitch-fests focusing on sociopathic quests for popularity. The film even makes a direct nod to Heathers, beating anyone with a knee-jerk urge to call the film “unoriginal” to the punch. It’s like I said before: There’s no hidden agenda in Tragedy Girls; the leads lay out their plan of attack early on and stick to it (with obstacles to overcome, of course). The names of the main characters are also shout-outs to a couple of horror’s most lauded fear practitioners: Tobe Hooper (director of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Sean S. Cunningham of Friday the 13th fame. There are also (not so subtle) references to John Carpenter’s Halloween, Wes Craven’s Scream, and Cannibal Holocaust; part of me suspects Hildebrand’s haircut is a reference to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character in Single White Female. So, in a sense, Tragedy Girls is a love letter to the filmmakers’ most significant influences. It soon becomes apparent, however, that the film relies on creating a nostalgia effect to rope in a more mature horror-viewing audience (as opposed to, say, innovation).
Tragedy Girls is a straight-up horror-send up; like Wes Craven’s Scream, the film seeks to subvert the genre by upending established horror tropes. Craven’s evisceration of horror and horror fandom was completely good-natured; we could almost hear the director commenting, “You guys are getting too good at this and filmmakers have gotten too lazy. Time to shake things up!” Tragedy Girls, on the other hand, is a brutal condemnation of its target audience. It’s as though director and co-writer Tyler MacIntyre is saying, “I hope you like this film, you bunch of narcissistic, oblivious, sociopaths!” There’s not a single redeemable teenager in the entire film. If the point is to make us weep for the future, mission accomplished!
Tragedy Girls is sleek, entertaining, and expertly acted throughout; I was never bored, but I was never thoroughly satisfied either. The film is a cinematic version of Salisbury Steak: It sounds appealing and it looks good, but underneath the gravy, it’s just a plain old hamburger patty. I can see this film scoring well among horror’s newest fans, those who didn’t grow up on Scream and its ilk. Anyone who’s been a connoisseur of the genre for over a decade, however, won’t see Tragedy Girls as a film deserving of lasting import or prominence.
Bottom Line: Tragedy Girls is a black comedy with some gruesome practical FX, gallows humor, and skewering social commentary. It’s both a product and a condemnation of the Internet Generation while speaking to the hero worship of “celebrity” serial killers. The film is easy on the eyes and the brain and could make for a fun, multi-generational group-watching experience. Plenty of fun here, but not much depth; “horror bubble gum” at its finest.