Review: TRAGEDY GIRLS
If you keep your ear close to the ground, you'll often hear about festival darlings well before they'll find their way to you in any way, shape and form. Doing what I do, this is a common occurrence for me and something like Tragedy Girls was on my radar pretty much from the get go. It's safe to say that the hype around the film was nothing short of setting me up for excruciating let down. Lot's of comparisons were thrown around, especially to the game changing Scream, so my ears were piqued and my expectations were high.
Holy hell. They did not let me down.
Best friends McKayla and Sadie are on the precipice of the first step into adulthood, their senior year, and like everybody in the entire world right now they are obsessed with true crime. They sport a flashy blog, Tragedy Girls, that details any and all things macabre but they've been working on breaking into the genre with a little more gusto. THIS ISN'T A SPOILER. The girls track down a local town legend who has been slice and dicing teenagers and kidnap him, stepping comfortably into a self induced Stockholm Syndrome and masquerading under the guise of the killer to go on their own killing spree.
Tragedy Girls is a movie that fits snugly between CW generation melodrama and the post-Scream slasher. Co-writers Tyler MacIntyre and Chris Lee Hill play with the genre in a way that is daringly meta but also glides along comfortably in a way that never feels forced but instead comfortably lived in. Where we have seen the slasher movie deconstructed many times, and expertly in films like Scream, The Final Girls and Behind the Mask, Tragedy Girls brings something wholly unique to the table. Where all of the aforementioned films are truly classics in their own right, they use the tropes of the slasher genre to help break themselves down and turn themselves inside out. What Tragedy Girls does instead, however, is use our current societies obsession with social media to truly explore mania from a more intrinsic setting. These girls aren't killing for passion or revenge, they're killing for tweets.
Tragedy Girls is also just visually pleasing. It's full of bright neon, solid color palettes, and a bubblegum sheen that's instantly enticing. Again though, MacIntyre is subtly dancing around with convention. While it may look like we are getting more style than substance, the movie is cleverly covering up it's dark as coal humor with a slick flair and like a master chemist, MacIntyre crafts a perfect combination of fashion and satire.
Now, the leads. Oh boy, these leads. Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand play McKayla Hooper and Sadie Cunningham respectfully and they kill it. Playing two best friends from polarizing opposite sides of the economic spectrum, Shipp and Hildebrand are bitingly millennial. Never seen without a phone in their hand or heard without a wisecrack from their mouth, they're oozing with charm and arrogance all at once. Listen, female leads are actually not too uncommon when it comes to slashers. But to have two women, one of color, who are so independently strong, smart and bold is a breath of fresh air. Where we often follow the hero's journey with a lead to see them overcome some sort of personal speed bump to finally see them claw their way to victory, Shipp and Hildebrand are never that. They come out of the gate strong, and while hurdles are still thrown in to overcome, they are consistently powerful women that rely only on each other to further their goals. This is a movie that is carried on the shoulders of the leads. Not only is it their pop culture fueled wit and sarcastic banter that entertains us through the movie, it's their titanium clad friendship that makes the film (against all odds) ultimately relatable.
As far as a horror film goes, especially in this vein, it has buckets of gore, fun kills and plays with the existing catalogue of references enough to keep all genre fans entertained, with Kevin Durand popping up in a bombastically entertaining role. The movie is one of the few that manages to tap into the current trends without losing interest or feeling shoehorned, it takes ideas that Detention and The Babysitter implemented but fleshes them out and creates a stylistically realistic world to exist in. You know how we classify slashers in with the phrase "post-Scream?" (I literally just did it earlier this review.) Get ready to start saying post-Tragedy Girls because this a turning point.