Above all else, Tyler MacIntyre’s Tragedy Girls is a satirical takedown of hashtag culture and the very nature of online deceptiveness as seen through the eyes of two fame-obsessed high school girls. The girls in question are McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) and Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand): best friends who run a social media account entitled Tragedy Girls, which keeps followers updated on the string of murders that have recently shaken their small, midwestern town. As the bodies begin to pile up, their fame begins to rise, but nobody seems to realize that McKayla and Sadies know more about the killer than they’re implying. A lot more.
In spite of the fact that it is filled with likes, hashtags, and endless references to pop culture and social media, Tragedy Girls never begins to feel as though it is pandering to a specific audience. Even more surprisingly, it never ventures too far into over-the-top territory. Its death scenes are far from subtle, the cinematography is consistently loud, and there’s an endless amount of, like, OMG moments, but the film avoids becoming irritating due to one very important reason: It’s actually very funny.
Hildebrand and Shipp play off of each other as if they were real-life best friends and that authenticity makes for some of the film’s most humorous moments. The sharp-witted banter between the two is so charming that it makes them likable in spite of their severe lack of morality when it comes to documenting the slaughter of their classmates. Cameos from the likes of Josh Hutcherson and Craig Robinson only add to the hilarity with the two successfully playing against type.
But Tragedy Girls doesn’t just work as a comedy, it’s a pretty inventive horror story as well. What makes the film so enjoyable from that standpoint is that it is essentially a whodunit slasher told through the perspective of who done it. If Tragedy Girls were released in 1985, the reveal would be that McKayla and Sadie were the villains behind the mask the entire time, but in order to keep up with the times, the reveal is something a bit more surprising and current. MacIntyre doesn’t even attempt to keep the identities of the killer(s) hidden, which despite preventing many moments of suspense, doesn’t hinder the entertainment value of the film at all.
As a horror-comedy, Tragedy Girls is as impressive as any in recent memory. The slashing is satisfying, the characters are memorable, and the jokes are genuinely funny — laugh-out-loud funny at times. This one gains almost immediate cult status and is guaranteed to be a fan favorite for years to come. It will leave you feeling satisfied in a way that very few films do, and it’s an absolute joy to watch. The next generation of genre film fans have been without their teen horror masterpiece, but it’s entirely possible that it has come along in the form of Tragedy Girls.
This review originally ran as part of our SXSW 2017 coverage. Tragedy Girls arrives in theaters October 20th through Gunpowder & Sky.