Studio: Gunpowder and Sky
Director: Tyler MacIntyre
Writer: Chris Lee Hill, Tyler MacIntyre
Producer: Anthony Holt, Armen Aghaeian, Edward Mokhtarian, Cameron Van Hoy, Tara Ansley, Craig Robinson
Stars: Brianna Hildebrand, Alexandra Shipp, Jack Quaid, Nicky Whelan, Kerry Rhodes, Timothy V. Murphy, Elise Neal, Marycarmen Lopez, Rosalind Chao, Savannah Jade, Austin Abrams, Josh Hutcherson, Kevin Durand, Craig Robinson
Two teenage best friends obsessed with true crime kidnap a murderer hoping he can teach them how to become serial killers.
Here’s a setup you’ve seen before: A boy and a girl parked alone at night along a remote lover’s lane. A nearby noise interrupts their makeout session, prompting one tiptoeing teen to step out of the car and investigate with a lump in his throat. Suddenly from the shadows springs a mystery maniac to thrust a blade in the boy’s belly of bursting blood. Surely a shriek from dead Romeo’s date comes next?
Not quite, because here’s something you haven’t seen before: Right behind the murderer is girl #2, up to a dirty deed of her own. Sadie and McKayla knew how to capture ‘The Rosedale Ripper’ all along. They just needed a classmate with a crush to give up his life as unwitting bait. With the killer in custody, perhaps these young ladies plan to turn him over to the police and be hailed as heroes? Wrong again. Sadie and McKayla aspire to become serial killers themselves, and they want The Rosedale Ripper to teach them.
“Tragedy Girls” chronicles the quest of two BFFs obsessed with true crime to achieve social media superstardom by blogging about a murder spree in their sleepy hometown. Trouble is, with no one paying attention, and with the original killer now held as an uncooperative hostage, the girls have to pick up where The Rosedale Ripper left off by committing more murders themselves.
“Tragedy Girls” has done its homework on how to hook horror and humor into a singularly sassy, savvy, and splattery movie. By design, it isn’t as zanily comical as something like the similarly-styled “The Final Girls,” but it taps that same vein of sharp comedic thriller satirizing slasher cinema while thumbing its nose at contemporary culture too.
If it’s true that 50% of directing is casting, a debatable bit of hyperbole if ever there was one, director Tyler MacIntyre gets full percentage points and then some from a roster whose lowest totem is as tuned up as its top. Leading the way, Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp chew off caricatures of typically trite teens and bite into their backstories with lip-licking, vixen-like villainy keeping Sadie and McKayla charismatically wicked without being too wild.
It’s a tough task to laugh with and like two unremorseful psychos, yet these girls come across as joyously demented with slyly sociopathic charm. “Tragedy Girls” flexes its muscle by consciously portraying both ladies not as victims, but as twisted teens very much in control of their actions. Trauma didn’t turn them terrible. This is their choice for empowerment. Stereotypes are sidestepped because Sadie and McKayla are represented as self-assured young women, even if they are operating on misguided minds.
Stars from big screens and small, specifically Josh Hutcherson and Craig Robinson, turn up essentially for cameos, though they refrain from stealing any spotlights, content to play quick bits in tune with the tone while the core duo keeps carrying the bulk. Truthfully, any actor can be singled out for a mention, including Katie Stottlemire, whose character isn’t even given a name, but whose deadpan expressions are always on cue for a gag.
Repeating the promise shown in his previous film “Patchwork” (review here), Tyler MacIntyre again displays an intuitive knack for being funny without being cartoony. “Tragedy Girls” knows its humor is inherent onscreen, never attempting to forcefully squeeze out a laugh through exaggeration, except when it comes time to dismember a corpse or brain a weightlifter in boldly bizarre and gory fashion.
As an example, watch the camera’s positions and note the timing of cuts when the school janitor interrupts the girls in an act of horribly bloody murder. Comedy isn’t completely situational. Angles and editing are always in mind to help highlight humor.
“Tragedy Girls” can be surprisingly gruesome, and its “good things come to those who kill” undertone makes the material somewhat scandalously dark. At the same time, the script’s smartness, the cast’s enthusiasm, and confident directing make the movie devilishly fun.
Tyler MacIntyre has a unique take on how to make horror/comedy intelligent as well as entertaining. If they aren’t already, “Tragedy Girls” cements that his is a voice genre film fans should definitely be listening to.
Review Score: 85