‘Tragedy Girls’ An Enjoyable Romp Through the Slasher Sandbox (FILM REVIEW)

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Slashers have been played out for over two decades now. That’s not to say there haven’t been some enjoyable entries into the field since Wes Craven effectively blew the door off the hinges with Scream, but modern slashers have tended to lack much of the pizzazz of their forebears. How long has it been since we had a killer like Michael Myers or Jason Vorhees? How long has it been since Michael or Jason were scary?

We live in a post-modern world, and self-awareness is the new black. Scream may have broken the seal on the self-aware slasher, but it’s by no means died since then. Horror lends itself well to the amalgamation with comedy—both comedy and horror rely on a sense of surprise in the audience, and any seasoned veteran of the horror community knows that laughter tends to follow the screams in even the scariest of films.

There comes a certain point for horror fans when fear is no longer the driving force for watching. Terror gets transcended, and movies get watched not for the sinking feeling of dread but for the thrill of a well-executed execution. Post-modern horror understands that, and uses it to play around in familiar territories in ways that are almost convivial. Tragedy Girls may not be the best example of post-modern horror out there, but it’s still a wild ride for otherwise jaded fans.

Tragedy Girls follows two death-obsessed teenage girls, Sadie and McKayla (Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp), who are inspired by a local masked madman to orchestrate a series of brutal murders of their own to frame on the uncaught psychopath (and bring attention to their blog). As their plans begin to unfold, they use their mastery of social media to gain the attention of the outside world and ensure themselves a place among the great madmen of American history.

Mean Girls, basically, if Regina George was into dismemberment instead of wearing pink on Wednesdays.

Director/co-writer Tyler Macintyre certainly knows his way around the innerworkings of the slasher, and he uses that here to craft some truly brutal scenes of death and gore. Fans of old school 80s horror will find plenty to revel in here, with its depictions of wanton violence and gruesome horror. It certainly is fun to watch at times, though the narrative does drag in spots.

Macintyre’s attempts to capture the language of youth often feel like an older man attempting to put their finger on the pulse of the young and missing wildly. Sadie and McKayla unironically use words like “jelly” in their conversation, which comes across as inauthentic and forced—the work of someone who is it quite as with the times as they would like to believe. Tragedy Girls is peppered with this kind of eye-rolling dialogue, and it threatens to derail a lot of the momentum that’s been built.

While the dialogue is often awful, Hildebrand and Shipp are both delightful in their respective roles, making Sadie and McKayla two of the baddest asses to wield a machete in quite some time. Their cutesy, social media influenced patois would be obnoxious if it didn’t belie their murderous intentions, and it does allow Macintyre to explore the dynamic social media plays in our modern society.

There’s also an interesting dynamic in the subtext of the film, which explores the relationship between psychopaths and their friends. The events of Tragedy Girls are spurred and driven by the collective psychology between Sadie and McKayla. It’s satiric in nature, but Macintyre manages to delve into just how two twisted minds can inspire each other to commit atrocities.

It’s not subtle, but this is the kind of social commentary that great horror is built on. Is Tragedy Girls great? Ehhhhh. But so what? Despite its flaws, it still manages to be an interesting take on the slasher genre that offers plenty of what the best of its kind has to offer. There’s plenty of room to expand upon its positives in the inevitable sequel, which we should be so #blessed to receive.

Tragedy Girls is now playing in theaters everywhere.

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