In December of 1996, Wes Craven’s Scream changed the way filmmakers looked at slasher films, as it broadened the scope of all that could be accomplished within the subgenre. In the years that followed, we’ve received similar films that toy with Scream‘s meta approach and amplify its humor to guffaw-worthy territory. Films such as Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and The Final Girls have most notably succeeded with this aesthetic, paying tribute to genre classics on their own hilarious and gruesome terms- and these greats have now been surpassed by Tragedy Girls, the new standard for slasher comedies.
Playing like a wicked cross between Scream and Heathers, Tragedy Girls sets itself apart from the last several slasher comedies based purely on the strength of its leads, Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand, who are destined for iconic cult status among horror fans. In the film, Shipp and Hildebrand play McKayla Hooper and Sadie Cunningham, two high school seniors that commit a string of murders to drive public interest in their true crime blog. Armed with an infinite knowledge of horror films and serial killers, McKayla and Sadie prove to be a sadistic duo. What makes the work of Shipp and Hildebrand so impressive, though, is that, despite viewers fully buying into their performances as demented killers, they display an unmitigated likability and innocent connection to each other that allows us to root for them on their narcissistic quest for fame.
In many ways, director Tyler MacIntyre has crafted a stinging social commentary on that very subject: narcissism in the age of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, have all contributed to a level of self-importance in each of us, and more-so than average users of these sites, that narcissism manifests itself in certain beings who are willing to sacrifice a clean conscience for the sake of cheap internet fame and popularity. How nasty are you willing to be in order to gain followers? There’s no limit for some, and MacIntyre addresses that issue without sacrificing the fun, upbeat tone of the film, or beating viewers over the head with it.
Aside from the performances of Shipp and Hildebrand, Tragedy Girls also benefits from a dynamite supporting cast of Jack Quaid, Kevin Durand, Craig Robinson and Josh Hutcherson- each of who are terrific in their roles, whether its meant to elicit humor, horror, or a sense of normalcy. These characters may take a backseat to our addicting female leads, but they ensure that it’s still a fun place to ride, even if we prefer shotgun.
Personally, Tragedy Girls is the most fun I’ve had within the horror genre in quite some time. There’s plenty of gore for the bloodhounds, and numerous references for die-hard horror fans to sink their teeth into. Tyler MacIntyre occupies a splendid space between the dark material and light tone, and when coupled with the infectiously villainous performances of Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand, it makes Tragedy Girls a can’t-miss feature for fans of slashers and slasher comedies alike.
Related to Women in Horror Month: