Main cast: Alexandra Shipp (McKayla Hooper), Brianna Hildebrand (Sadie Cunningham), Jack Quaid (Jordan Welch), Kevin Durand (Lowell Orson Lehmann), Josh Hutcherson (Toby Mitchell), Craig Robinson (Albert “Big Al” Hill), Timothy V Murphy (Sheriff Blane Welch), Nicky Whelan (Mrs Kent), Kerry Rhodes (Drew), Austin Abrams (Craig Thompson), Rosalind Chao (Mayor Campbell), Savannah Jayde (Syl), Loren Lester (Principal Reid), and Marycarmen Lopez (Trish Ortega)
Director: Tyler MacIntyre
Tragedy Girls starts out like a standard slasher movie, with two teenage sweethearts Sadie Cunningham and Craig Thompson snogging in a car in the middle of a lane in a wooded area, when of course she hears something and has him going out to investigate. Craig soon gets a machete into the head while Sadie flees the masked killer… until the man trips over a well-laid trap set by Sadie’s BFF McKayla Hooper and the two young ladies taser him out cold.
Yup, these two young ladies are the Tragedy Girls, two video-bloggers or whatever you call them these days that run a true crime channel. They are actually big fans of this serial killer, Lowell Orson Lehmann, and they believe he can teach them all the tricks they need to become legends. Poor Craig is the bait they use to lure him out, oops.
Sure, these ladies need a breakthrough scoop to do that, but that’s okay, they can create the murders they need to become mainstream sensations! Lowell is not cooperative, as you can imagine, so they will keep him tied up and locked up while serving him dog food on a daily basis until he sees sense. In the meantime, they decide to become legends by their own efforts, taking out their high school nemesis Syl and McKayla’s ex Toby (he dares to have more followers than they) as well as a few others that annoy them in one way or the other. Hilariously, their efforts to be the first to get the “scoop” of each death are often thwarted by these murders being ruled as accidents and such.
Lowell tries to pit the ladies against one another, but the true catalyst for the BFFs to break up may be their fellow high school nerd and video editor, Jordan Welch, whom Sadie begins to fall for much to McKayla’s consternation. Sadie begins to drift away into what seems like an effort to be “normal”, but worse, Jordan’s father is the town sheriff…
Yes, psychotic high school girls is a popular trope, and while some play this trope straight, others go down the dark comedy-cum-slasher movie route; Tragedy Girls falls into the latter group. Fortunately, it’s a good example of that second group: the humor is effective and self-aware, with plenty of nudge-wink references to popular slasher movie tropes, but without going overboard and turning the characters into caricatures. Sure, McKayla and Sadie come off as vapid teenage bimbo mean girls at times, but as the movie progresses, this apparent vapid nature turns out to be not a punchline, but rather, a manifestation of their chilling lack of human empathy. If they utter sarcastic quips in circumstances that would break immersion or come off as poorly done bathos under other circumstances, here, they are quipping because they are incapable of feeling fear while at the same being very confident, even cocky, about their odds.
Alexandra Shipp is brilliant as the scarier, more overtly psycho of the two, while Brianna Hildebrand is great as the brain of the two. What I really like here is how McKayla and Sadie aren’t natural super-efficient killers. Their initial successes are more of an “Oops! Guess we got lucky!” affair, although it’s both amusing and chilling to see them becoming more and more efficient as their confidence grows with each lucky break. The kill scenes are appropriately gruesome yet hilarious at the same time, so much so that even the occasional fake-looking dodgy effects are forgiven.
Underneath it all, this is a sweet, even romantic, tale of sismance between two psychopaths that belong together because they are kindred souls – no one else can relate to them, and in the end, they are perfectly happy about it. Now, I know that the two lead characters are males, many people would be at arms about the “bros before hos”, or in this case, “sis before penis” take home message, but come on, why quibble when this is that rare, unapologetic movie about female killers that don’t punish them or pit them against one another to the bitter end because of some bloke. If the people behind this movie had set out to deliberately make a cult movie, they have done a lot of things right here to achieve that goal.
Tragedy Girls is a sharp, well-paced, well-acted darkly comedic slasher flick that gets the gore and the humor all done right, with a huge dose of heartwarming psychotic sisterhood love as cherry on the blood-drenched cake. Really now, what’s not to like?