I am absolutely in love with Tragedy Girls, as it completely defied my expectations at every single turn. A brilliant send-up of the slasher sub-genre that's relentlessly funny, heartfelt, and clever, Tragedy Girls is one of the most “fun” festival movies I’ve seen since Deathgasm, proving that no one can ever come between two best friends, especially when they've got murder on their minds and an online legacy to build.
In the film, Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) are BFFs at Rosedale High. Also known online as the “Tragedy Girls,” they take their obsession with true crime and serial killers to the next level when they kidnap an active killer named Lowell (Kevin Durand) with hopes of learning a few things from a professional before they embark on their own murderous path. But when Lowell refuses to give up the goods, the besties decide to embark on their careers as serial killers anyway, taking out a variety of victims and ultimately shaking their small community to its core.
But as the bodies stack up, we see McKayla and Sadie’s longtime friendship truly tested in ways it never has been before, especially when the sheriff’s son, Jordan (Jack Quaid) sets his sights on Sadie. Jordan’s romantic feelings drive a wedge between the girls, culminating in an epic showdown between the “Tragedy Girls” on prom night that goes in a direction I genuinely didn’t see coming. Bravo to co-writers Justin Olson (who wrote the original screenplay), Chris Lee Hill, and Tyler MacIntyre (who also serves as the film’s director).
Truthfully, when I first read the synopsis for Tragedy Girls, I wasn’t all that jazzed, especially since we’ve seen some amazing slasher deconstructions over the last few years. But, ten minutes in, I was completely head over heels for both Sadie and McKayla, as well as their wickedly perverse sense of humor and their take on the world at large. Beyond the fact that Tragedy Girls plays as something of a tribute to numerous genre tropes fans have been enjoying for decades now, it also plays around with a lot of high school cinema conventions (I mean, the finale takes place at prom—because, OF COURSE), and if you took out all of the story’s technologically-driven aspects, Tragedy Girls would feel perfectly at home alongside some of the great high school movies from the 1980s.
And for those of you horror purebloods who may worry about whether or not Tragedy Girls is “horror enough” for you, MacIntyre delivers some truly gnarly kills, especially when the girls let loose in their school's wood shop or when they find a unique way to handle a potential victim working out at the local gym (that scene in particular reminded me of Debbie’s fate in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, minus the whole cockroach thing). On the comedy end of the spectrum, MacIntyre and his stellar ensemble all do an excellent job of keeping up the film’s comedic pace. Tragedy Girls never once lags in momentum—definitely not an easy feat, especially when it comes to comedy.
Both Hildebrand and Shipp dazzle in their respective roles in Tragedy Girls, and I honestly hope this film opens up every single possible opportunity for both actresses, because they absolutely nail it here. Hildebrand left a huge impact on me with her performance in Deadpool as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, so when I realized that she was one of the Tragedy Girls, it was a complete eye-opener for me. And Shipp, whose character enjoys an intriguing character arc in the film, is equally fantastic. Honestly, I could watch the duo make ten more films together and I don’t think I would ever get bored watching them.
As far as the supporting roles in Tragedy Girls go, there are a lot of familiar faces that pop up throughout the film, including Josh Hutcherson (who is hysterical as the emotionally complex motorcycle-riding ex-boyfriend of McKayla), Craig Robinson as Rosedale's fire chief and fixture in the community, as well as the aforementioned Durand, who gets to have some fun here as a big lug of a serial killer (who may not be the sharpest tool in the shed).
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Savannah Jayde, who plays Syl, Sadie and McKayla's school nemesis who can literally do no wrong. Between captaining the cheerleading squad, helping out on the prom committee, making book exchange buildings, and even volunteering to help those less fortunate, Jayde’s character is the kind of gal that those of us who aren’t nearly the go-getters she is love to see getting knocked down a peg or two, and the confrontation between her and the Tragedy Girls is wonderfully ridiculous.
And while Tragedy Girls is a triumphant comedy/horror hybrid, it also has a bit of a message on its mind, particularly when it comes to our obsession with social media and everyone getting their "15 minutes." It never gets heavy-handed, though, as it's clear that while MacIntyre wants to make sure there's a reason for us to invest in this story as viewers, he's also still there to have a good time and let loose with the carnage, and he never shies away from letting the blood fly here. I honestly cannot wait until Tragedy Girls gets nabbed for distribution so I can see it again, and I implore all you horror comedy fans out there to see it once it gets a proper release.
Movie Score: 5/5
Check here for more of our live coverage from the SXSW Film Festival, and in case you missed it, check out our previous coverage of Tragedy Girls: