One of the tricky things about being a film critic is that you have to train yourself to be as impartial as possible when reviewing a film. You don’t want to be too generous with a type of film that you’re inclined to enjoy and you don’t want to be too harsh on a film that doesn’t exactly cater to you. Tyler MacIntyre’s Tragedy Girls is a movie that is right up my alley: A fast-paced and witty horror-comedy featuring tons of gore and two bitchy women spouting off ferociously hilarious one-liners. It’s basically a movie that was made for me, so forgive me for being a bit biased in my review. Tragedy Girls is not a flawless film, but boy it sure is entertaining.
Tragedy Girls centers around McKayla (Alexandra Shipp, Storm from X-Men: Apocalypse) and Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand, Negasonic Teenage Warhead from Deadpool), two social media-obsessed best friends who kidnap local serial killer Lowell (The Strain’s Kevin Durand, doing his best Ted Levine impersonation) in the hopes that he will teach them his murderous ways. Their goal is to continue Lowell’s killing spree themselves, pin everything on him and write about it on their social media account @TragedyGirls (“girls, plural”) so that they can become internet famous.
If McKayla and Sadie sound like a couple of obnoxious teenagers to you, you’d be right, but Shipp and Hildebrand are wonderfully charismatic as the self-proclaimed Tragedy Girls. Their performances make what could have been some truly grating characters into something much more endearing. These are vicious killers, but you can’t help but love them. The actresses fully commit to their roles with impeccable comedic timing. Both young women share a magnetic chemistry that will keep your eyes glued to the screen. Hildebrand gets the slightly less extravagant role in the too-cool-for-school Sadie, but she holds her own against Shipp, who is simply sublime as McKayla. She brings a welcome manic and bubbly energy to an incredibly disturbed character. She owns Tragedy Girls. Supporting roles are equally strong. Josh Hutcherson and Craig Robinson show up for some memorable cameos. Hutcherson, sporting some hilariously terrible facial hair, gets to have some fun as a douchey Sons of Anarchy wannabe while Robinsons dedicated fireman, who also produced the film, has one of the more memorable scenes in a local gym.
MacIntyre’s screenplay, which he co-wrote with Chris Lee Hill, deserves some praise as well. While MacIntyre and Hill do inject the requisite amount of social commentary (the younger generation’s reliance on social media need for attention and fame) into the film, it’s not the main focus. They opt to keep things moving at a rapid-fire pace, but it serves the film rather than hinders it. Tragedy Girls isn’t trying to make a big statement. It’s trying to have fun. Horror fans will particularly enjoy the impressive attention to detail in the film. The inspirations and reverence for other horror films readily apparent in each frame (there is an homage to the ending of Halloween that will leave most horror fans in stitches), making it nearly impossible to catch all of them on a first viewing. Tragedy Girls practically demands repeat viewings just to catch all of the in-jokes and Easter Eggs.
Gorehounds will find plenty to love here. The deaths range from simple stabbings to elaborate Final Destination-style kills. MacIntyre stages some of the Rube Goldberg-ian set pieces with a tremendous amount of confidence for someone with just one film (2015’s Patchwork) under his belt. For a film with such a light-hearted tone, Tragedy Girls is not afraid to get down and dirty with the red stuff. The crowd-pleasing murder sequences and their aftermath are sure to generate equal amounts of belly laughs and stomach churns.
As fun as it is, Tragedy Girls is not without its flaws. The final act falls prey to some eye-rolling predictability, and it falls into the standard horror-comedy trap of trying to get sentimental in order to provide some additional character development. This betrays the over-the-top silliness that permeates the first two acts and the abrupt change in tone doesn’t fully work. A tragic backstory for the girls is shoehorned in a little too late in the game for it to have much of an impact, but the film recovers in its final minutes, ending the film on a high note.
Tragedy Girls is certainly not for everyone, especially those who have grown weary of social media references and meta humor, but for those who are in the mood for a fast-paced, witty and altogether hysterical time, Tragedy Girls fits the bill. Mix a little bit Heathers, a dash of Mean Girls, a sprinkling of Detention and just a touch of Scream 4 and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for with Tragedy Girls. Don’t miss this viciously funny film!