Tragedy Girls opens in New York and Los Angeles October 20, but thankfully it’s not a flick that comes out and is gone before the blink of an eye (leading to an immediate run on Blu-ray and streaming). If you’re a horror/comedy genre fan (Scream franchise comes to mind), Tragedy Girls should be your cup of tea (actually it’s more like a double espresso shot to the soul). Below are five reasons why I absolutely love (and highly recommend) Tragedy Girls.
Plotline: Sadie Cunningham (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla Hooper (Alexandra Shipp) are high school cheerleaders with murder on their mind. After kidnapping a serial killer (Kevin Durand) to serve as their de facto mentor, these ladies embark hack and slash their way to notoriety all for the benefit of upping their social media game. Co-written and directed by Tyler MacIntyre, Tragedy Girls is a deft ode to teen horror flicks and pointed critique of today’s selfie/Instagram crazed narcissists.
Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp Deliver First Rate Performances
You may remember Brianna Hildebrand from her scene stealing work in Deadpool as Negasonic Teenage Warhead or Shipp from X-Men: Apocalypse (as Storm), and Tragedy Girls delivers a deeper showcase for their respective talents. They’re absolutely believable as best friends, and the chemistry between the two actresses, amidst all the bloodletting and witty, self aware jokes, is palpable.
Though these self proclaimed “Tragedy Girls” are amoral killers – don’t be surprised if you’re rooting for their friendship to survive even as their town gets torn apart in the process. We’ve all rooted for baddies in the past (think Alex from A Clockwork Orange), so don’t feel too bad if you’re on the wrong side of history with Tragedy Girls.
Both Hildebrand and Shipp are stars in the making, and years from now Tragedy Girls may be cited as a turning point in their careers..
2. Tragedy Girls Is A Cinematic Homage But It’s Not Derivative
Teen classics like Heathers and Clueless, along with Scream and Brian De Palma’s classic Carrie are all part of the homage gumbo pot served up by director/co-writer Tyler MacIntyre. Delivering a satire on social media and pop culture usually calls for references from the past, but too often these films end up being a pale shadow of its predecessors. Thankfully Tragedy Girls uses these visual and thematic templates to carve its own path, and while it’s wonderful that we’re reminded of several awesome movies that did it right, Tragedy Girls also beats the tune of its own drummer.
One example lies in the layered relationship between Sadie, a focused individual who was raised in a trailer park, and McKayla, a rich girl who is always coddled by her parents. Both girls come from different side of the tracks, and as the narrative progresses we see potential cracks in their relationship.
MacIntyre, however, doesn’t beat us over the head with social class themes or deliver profound messages on the perils of social media. Instead, he puts his inspired story, which includes the wonderfully realized friendship between the Tragedy Girls, at the forefront. It’s hard to believe a slasher movie with tons of jokes is beguilingly subtle – but that’s one of Tragedy Girls’ strongest suits.
3. Josh Hutcherson And Craig Robinson Power An A-List Supporting Cast
The Tragedy Girls may be the star of the show, but the supporting cast also have their moments to shine. Josh Hutcherson is great as McKayla’s bike-riding, seemingly insightful ex-boyfriend Toby Mitchell (basically, Toby’s a horny teenager who understands acting sensitive will get him laid and, more importantly, tons of social media followers).
Craig Robinson, who plays the town firefighter determined to catch the serial killer. also has a memorable sequence with Shipp and Hildebrand (the confrontation takes place in a workout room, and it’s actually the best staged action scene of the flick). Kevin Durand (Lost, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), who always seems intimidating on screen, is also perfectly cast as the serial killer. Jack Quaid is also convincing Jordan Welch as the Tragedy Girls’ morally conflicted videographer and potential boyfriend of Sadie (Jordan probably subscribes to the “love is blind” theory),
4. Tragedy Girls Doesn’t Devolve Into Sheer Sexploitation
Sexuality has its place in cinema, and one can argue sexploitation movies can be a guilty pleasure. Those concepts hold no domain in Tragedy Girls, and though both leads are attractive (Hildebrand, pixie cut and all, would make a perfect choice if they ever made that long talked about Jean Seberg biopic), their physical beauty is just a minute part of their make-up. Their wit and cunning, which originates from detailed planning, as well as their overall drive (to build their Tragedy Girls brand) are their defining characteristics. Although I’d hate to be one of their victims (or maybe even their friend), they get total respect points for keeping their eyes on the prize.
Though the film has its share of blood and gore, the violence doesn’t verge into absurdly squeamish realms. So yes, sex and violence definitely sells, but thankfully MacIntyre doesn’t slather it all over the screen.
5. Speaking of Tyler MacIntyre – Pay That Man His Money!!
I was blown away with 2010’s Super, and it was plain to see director James Gunn, who had a ton of seemingly incongruent tonal shifts to deal with in the film, was a total talent. With Tragedy Girls, MacIntyre proves that he can shoot a narrative that’s infused with a ton of layers. This storytelling diversity led Gunn to be an excellent choice for Guardians of the Galaxy, and hopefully MacIntyre gets his chance to direct a big budget, tentpole film.
Many of these 100-200 million studio projects are soulless excuses for a cash grab, and having distinct storytellers at the helm is one way to at least make these movies more palatable or even excellent. Tragedy Girls is destined to become a cult classic, and even if MacIntyre decides a lower budget indie route is more suited to his tastes, he should continue to flourish.
But studio heads and producers, please give him the Rounders treatment if you sign him up to your four quadrant flick!!
Tragedy Girls is a flick I’ll definitely watch a couple of more times down the road, and there are wonderful visual sequences that will stay embedded in my memory (since I’m a huge De Palma fan, my Tragedy Girls). It’s a Blu-ray I’ll definitely be requesting or grabbing from my local DVD joint down the road. Please comment below and tell me if you’re excited to see Tragedy Girls, or better yet, share your thoughts if you’ve actually seen the movie!!
Tragedy Girls Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
I’ll also be mentioning the movie during my discussion with Anderson Cowan on the next episode of CinemAddicts. ICYMI, below is our October show: