SXSW Film Review: Tragedy Girls

Neo-Heathers cuts, but not so deep

BBFF: bloody best friends forever: Horror comedy Tragedy Girls takes serial killers online.

Meet Sadie and McKayla. They're the queen bees of their high school, in the cheer squad and on the prom committee. They just need two more things to complete their lives: a bunch of social media followers, and a body count.

Stealing two X-Men franchise players, director Tyler MacIntyre's horror-comedy isn't afraid to sharpen knives or nails. McKayla (Alexandra Shipp, aka Storm from X-Men: Apocalypse) and Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand, aka Negasonic Teenage Warhead from Deadpool) have worked out there's a serial killer on the loose in their bucolic Middle-American town, and they decide to capture him, so he can teach them how to be serial killers, so they can write a blog about the actual serial killer, pin their crimes on him, and then become the social media darlings that helped catch the bad guy.

It's a ridiculous setup, but the action embraces the silliness for a sick, slick satire, as the girls get bloodier and more gruesomely creative to get their moment of fame.

With its sights set on what people will do for social media fame, MacIntyre is clearly aiming for a neo-Heathers with extra gore. However, he sometimes falls into Buffy the Vampire Slayer territory (Kristy Swanson, not Sarah Michelle Gellar).

He clearly knows his horror history, with overt nods to De Palma, Carpenter, Ruggero Deodato, and, to bring things up to date, The Purge: Election Night. But then, there are moments when his filmic references feel a little like baggage, and that's in his depiction of high school life. Replace Twitter with Geocities, and Tragedy Girls could have double-billed with Clueless, and surely life has changed a little bit since then. That said, his satirical take on social media celebrities feels like a more timely grasp than other recent attempts to hang with the cool kids (looking at you, #Horror).

The story is also so hyperkinetic that it needs a dose of Adderall. Kevin Durand (rebar-wielding Fet from The Strain) chews the scenery gloriously, but his subplot often disappears for long stretches: a waste of Durand, and an itching absence from what should be the main story.

But the raw energy of Tragedy Girls blasts over those cracks, mostly powered by the whip-smart banter between the two leads. Shipp goes for a broader comedy, but Hildebrand, as with Deadpool, brings more nuance and depth than the story necessarily needed, and she strikes a gushing vein of dry smirks that pull the film away from the lip of the horror-comedy grave.


Tragedy Girls

Midnighters

World Premiere

Tuesday, March 14, 11:30pm, Alamo South Lamar
Friday, March 17, 11:15am, Alamo Ritz

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
SXSW Film Review: <i>Upgrade</i>
Review: Upgrade
Cyberpunk action thriller has a few hidden features

Richard Whittaker, March 19, 2018

SXSW Film Review: <i>Rush Hour</i>
Review: Rush Hour
The time we lose in traffic, on a global scale

Marc Savlov, March 19, 2018

More by Richard Whittaker
Bart Layton on Secrets, Lies, and <i>American Animals</i>
Q&A: Bart Layton on American Animals
How the documentarian turned true crime tropes on their heads

June 14, 2018

C. Robert Cargill’s Journey From Writing About Film to Making Blockbusters
C. Robert Cargill’s Journey From Writing About Film to Making Blockbusters
Something sinister, something strange from Dr. Strange scribe

June 15, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW Film, SXSW 2017, SXSW, SXSW Film 2017

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle