If there’s any justice in the world, Tyler MacIntyre’s Tragedy Girls will be an instant cult hit. The high school slasher is as current as Twitter’s latest trending topic, but made weighty with age-old issues such as the destructive nature of narcissism and toxic teen friendships between girls.
Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) and Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) are remarkable as Sadie and McKayla, two Rosedale High students who take the small town’s recent murder spree as an opportunity to up their like count. They are the #tragedygirls, and follower engagement is a bit down ("We’ve only got one RT, and it’s your mom") until they come up with a plan to trap their local serial killer (Kevin Durand as Lowell) and take over his mantle. Soon, their fans are in the six figures and Sadie and MK are closer than ever - but will Lowell succeed in coming between the two childhood besties?
Sadie and MK are amazing. These girls are so cool, so stylish and poised, that we obsessively root for them even as they plot the deaths of nice guys and heroic firefighters alike. Their rapport is so easy and authentic, that impossibly clever, rapid-fire slang that cannot fail to bring to mind such all-timers as Heathers and Jennifer’s Body. These girls know what they’re about, and as killers they’re instantly iconic, as memorable and deliberate as any giant masked dude from the ‘80s.
And their kills are serious business. Each death inspired uproarious applause in our audience, these elaborate, messy tableaux that resemble "some Final Destination shit," as McKayla boasts. Tragedy Girls opens with a very familiar scene: a pretty blonde girl and hapless teen fella are necking in a car while a masked man menaces nearby. But Sadie and MK (and MacIntyre) waste no time in reversing the trope, with the girls doubling up on the killer and trapping him for their own dark purposes. There’s not a damsel to be found in Tragedy Girls - even the teen girl that Sadie and MK brutally butcher in the wood shop is a real piece of work, giving the girls more trouble than any of their bigger, manlier victims.
The art direction is eye-popping, a colorful, energetic tribute to teenage attention spans, serial killer scrapbooking montages set to pop music and genre reference-laden backdrops. As the Tragedy Girls rattle off platitudes ("Life is short," "Anyone could be next,") we see hearts and thumbs-ups floating from their ever-present phones, and the girls’ confidence in their mission skyrockets into the stratosphere. Because as much as Tragedy Girls is a very satisfying teen girl slasher flick, it’s also a cautionary tale about the dangers of social media obsession, the narcissism that lurks behind endless selfies and anonymous trolling. When Sadie confesses her concern about the Rosedale Ripper to the town sheriff, he suggests, "Maybe stop checking in your location online and he can’t find you." She stares him down blankly. "I’d rather die."
In horror-years, the slasher’s an ancient genre, but with Tragedy Girls, McIntyre has found a fresh and terribly relevant approach. In a time when our president could start World War III with a tweet, a killing spree born on Tumblr doesn’t feel too farfetched.