04th Aug2017

Fantasia 2017: ‘Tragedy Girls’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Brianna Hildebrand, Alexandra Shipp, Kevin Durand, Josh Hutcherson, Nicky Whelan, Austin Abrams, Craig Robinson, Rosalind Chao, Timothy V. Murphy | Written by Chris Lee Hill, Tyler MacIntyre | Directed by Tyler MacIntyre

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A small, midwestern town is terrorized in the grip of a serial killer (Kevin Durand). We first meet Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) as she is being chased through the woods, about to become the murderer’s latest victim… until the slasher realizes that he’s fallen into a trap! Sadie and her BFF McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) ambush the killer, chain him up in a secret place and alternately jolt him with cattle prods and take selfies. The unfortunate madman has met his match. You see, Sadie and McKayla are beautiful, popular death-obsessed teens who brand themselves The Tragedy Girls in the Twitter/Tumblr universe, where they’ve been amassing followers reporting on the ongoing killing spree. Now, with the killer their secret captive, they’re free to indulge in their darkest fantasies of actual murder, with the added bonus of being able to be the first “reporters” at the crime scenes, all with an easy, eventual scapegoat to pin everything on!

Part Mean Girls, part Scream and ALL Heathers, Tragedy Girls is a superb, if more gruesome, successor to the snarky teen antics of Christian Slater and Winona Ryder in Mark Waters iconic 80s film. Only J.D. and Veronica didn’t publicise everything they did on social media; and hey, at least Veronica had a conscience! Our protagonists here are the opposite, they have no conscience and don’t regret anything, they truly are the very definition of teenage psychopaths.

Fresh of her sarcastic superhero role in Deadpool, Brianna Hildebrand tears up the screen again as the psychotic Sadie – her appearance may have changed but Hildebrand’s deadpan, and fearless, delivery hasn’t, and it fits her character here to a tee. Meanwhile Alexandra Shipp is a perfect foil for Hildebrand – the pair have a chemistry that truly looks and feels like its carried over from real life, rather than the pair being put together for a movie. And together the pair make for a deadly duo: one of the best (can you say best when it comes to killing?) on-screen pairings I’ve seen in some time in a genre film… Probably since the hilarious horror-combo of Tucker and Dale, but these women certainly AREN’T here for the laughs. Well at least if the laughs are not of the macabre variety! Special mention must also go to Kevin Durand as the films token “big burly serial killer”, who manages to be both funny and frightening as the patsy for the Tragedy Girls current killing spree – his interaction with the pair is at once dangerous and, bizarrely, fatherly. Especially when he realises he could have compatriots in killing rather than making Sadie and McKayla his victims.

Tyler MacIntyre, director of the Frankenhooker-esque Patchwork, brings the same streak of black comedy to this, his latest effort. Blending macabre humour with traditional teen movie tropes, Tragedy Girls is not only a fantastic slice of self-referrential horror, but also a wonderful diatribe on the pursuit of fame in today’s social-media savvy times… These girls use the same tools as all those “famous for being famous” people that clog up reality TV do: Twitter, tumblr, YouTube etc., only they kill people to score notoriety too! Hell, it beats wearing skimpy outfits and/or acting like douchebags in the pursuit of fame, which seems to be de rigueur with a lot of today’s online “celebrities”. Tragedy Girls also pokes fun at the stereotype of the vacuous teen: and whilst Sadie and McKayla live up to the same self-obsessed, “me, myself and I” attitudes of the girls in Mean Girls they also despise that very same attitude, subverting it from within and instead emerging as strong, powerful (if deranged) women.

With bleak finale (well bleak for everyone BUT our protagonists) and an ending that leaves things wide open for further “adventures” of Sadie and McKayla, Tragedy Girls is a perfect example of the horror-comedy.

More please Mr. MacIntyre!

***** 5/5
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Check out the rest of our Fantasia 2017 coverage right here.

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