There has been a recent new wave of what I like to call “millennial-sploitation” films as of late. Its hard to tell if these films are being helmed by a card carrying, H&M clad, actual millennial or if they are being directed by an archaic hand who is trying to simultaneously understand and preach about a generation they don’t understand. I go into those films with the bar set low. The heavy handed-exploitative nature can be abrasive. Lucky for us, while Tragedy Girls does fit into the above mentioned sub-genre it manages to do everything spot on and refreshing in its approach.
Tragedy Girls follows Sadie Cunningham (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla Hooper (Alexandra Shipp), two social media obsessed high school students, who have some super macabre extra curriculars. See, they spend their time playing a dangerous game that toys with serial killers, incorporates murder and the inevitable posting of true-crimish manipulative material to social network channels. Like other students, they have goals, only difference is theirs seem to be more on the blood soaked side of the spectrum.
Almost anything said about this film can spoil it. I have to treat this synopsis with kid-gloves. So, I don’t want to say too much more about the plot. All I can say is that if you can skip the trailer and just go in blind to the experience, I definitely recommend it.
The film is gleefully, gory, stylish and self aware. But never gets heavy on the whole social commentary of, say, the dangers of social media usage. It isn’t a PSA, even though it could have quickly become that. It is refreshing to see a film that knows it is allowed to be fun and light – and Tragedy Girls absolutely revels in the fun and the gore.
Director, Tyler MacIntyre makes interesting choices in terms of the look and feel of the film itself. He chooses to use an overly-neat, crisp digital polish that is easily comparable to a Lifetime movie. I found it distracting at times but there there is reward to this method of madness. Once realized, it makes that aesthetic choice part of the experience in a smart subtle wink that doesn’t reveal itself until late in the movie.
Both Hildebrand and Shipp are great. They balance the right amounts of playfulness and sociopathic tendencies to make them a great new addition to the horror genre. Watching these two, its hard to not be silently praying that Tragedy Girls becomes a franchise. Cause dammit, these two could easily carry one.
I also, gotta give a shout out to actor Timothy V. Murphy who plays Sheriff Blane Welch. It took me a while to recognize him with the moustache and accent, but this is the dude from those adorable DirecTV ads, that featured an overly wealthy Russian guy kissing a tiny giraffe. I was a sucker for those ads and it made me happy to see him pop-up in this. Dude does great work and I hope to see him in a lot more stuff.
Also, keep your eye out for tons of small winks and easter eggs that will appeal to genre fans. From the two lead characters last names, to some of the kills in the film. This is ultimately a love letter to the things, people and places in horror that all us fanatics hold dear.
Tragedy Girls is smart about its nature. It takes the best of Heathers and Scream, mixes in social media obsession and works up some horror alchemy that reaches exciting heights. It is unrelenting in its ideals and semi-sociopathic in some of its choices, but choosing those paths helps to subvert tropes and keep you engaged and surprised from start to finish.