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


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

Plans for New SXSW HQ Unveiled at Groundbreaking
Plans for New SXSW HQ Unveiled at Groundbreaking
The 145,000-square-foot building is set to open in 2019

Reanna Zuniga, Nov. 16, 2017

Hey, SXSW, How You Doin'?
Hey, SXSW, How You Doin'?
Tech pioneers, music innovators, and a daytime fave added

Richard Whittaker, Nov. 9, 2017

More SXSW Film
Unleashing the <i>Hounds of Love</i>
Unleashing the Hounds of Love
Director Ben Young on his serial-killer couple drama

Richard Whittaker, May 12, 2017

Ben Wheatley  Catches <i>Free Fire</i>
Ben Wheatley Catches Free Fire
Director on making his U.S. action debut

Richard Whittaker, April 21, 2017

More by Richard Whittaker
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
A stellar entry into the beloved franchise

Dec. 15, 2017

Gift Guide Grab Bag
Gift Guide Grab Bag
An array of extravagance to geek out on

Dec. 15, 2017


SXSW Film, SXSW 2017, SXSW, SXSW Film 2017

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)