Bolstered by winning performances from its two leads, director Tyler MacIntyre’s horror comedy Tragedy Girls delivers with both laugh-out-loud humor and gory set pieces. It has its share of disturbing moments, as well, along with some surface-level commentary on addiction of social media.
Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand star, respectively, as high school seniors McKayla Hooper and Sadie Cunningham (The characters’ last names should give you an instant clue as to whether director MacIntyre and co-writer Chris Lee Hill [working from an original screenplay by Justin Olson] plan to drop an abundance of fear-fare references on audiences.) The girls have been best friends since elementary school, and they are almost inseparable in high school – after all, committing murders in an attempt to drive up hits on their titular social media accounts takes up a great deal of time.
McKayla and Sadie lure and kidnap serial killer Lowell (Kevin Durand) in an attempt to make him their mentor, but he winds up being their prisoner instead. Meanwhile, classmate Jordan Welch (Jack Quaid), who also happens to be the sheriff’s son, gets wrapped up in the proceedings because of his video editing skills and crush on Sadie.
Tragedy Girls works best if taken as a lighthearted, though quite dark, teen horror comedy. Viewers hoping for deeper satire regarding the effects of social media on today’s high schoolers aren’t going to get much more than they would be overhearing a teacher or parent lecturing a teenager about spending too much time on Facebook or Twitter. For sheer horror comedy fun, though, director Tyler MacIntyre and cowriter Chris Lee Hill deliver a solid dose of humor, with many jokes referencing well-known horror filmmakers or movies. Sometimes the gags are less subtle than others, as, for example, when the girls witness an accidental death and McKayla exclaims, “That’s some Final Destination [expletive deleted]!”
The kills in the film are often quite gruesome. Splatter fans will find much to enjoy here. One of the more disturbing death sequences in the film, however, happens off camera, with what befalls a group of teenagers left to the imaginations of viewers as a scene is set; an anguished father mourning the death of his child occurs a bit later. This sequence is not played for laughs – at least, I hope it wasn’t meant to be – and it feels like a heavy jolt after all of the more comically absurd deaths, though there is a death scene just before it that is a kind of bridge between these two styles. The world was a different place when the prom scene in Carrie (1976) was unleashed upon unsuspecting audiences; in current times, depictions of high schoolers dying en masse have a more sobering feeling, and this tonal shift felt somewhat awkward.
Besides Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand turning in pitch-perfect performances, the sizeable supporting cast is impressive, as well. Kevin Durand plays a psychotic killer with aplomb, Jack Quaid is solid as the friend having unrequited love, Craig Robinson is a blast in his role as Fire Chief Big Al, and Nicky Whelan gives an appealing turn as teacher Mrs. Kent. Most of the supporting characters have a secret or two in their lives, which makes them interesting and identifiable.
Tyler MacIntyre paces Tragedy Girls effectively, and he has a keen eye for framing. The film looks great, is consistently entertaining, and should put smiles on the faces of slasher film fans for many different reasons.
(3.5 / 5)