You know the slasher-movie drill. Two high-school students are parked on a country lane at night. The windows have steamed up. Busy necking, the boy and girl suddenly hear a noise outside. The boy gets out of the car, goaded by the girl, who questions his masculinity.
Soon enough, his young face meets a masked killer’s glinting blade. The girl screams and legs it into the woods.Then comes the postmodernist twist. The maniac walks into a tripwire and another girl appears out of nowhere, zapping the Michael Myers wannabe with an Amazon-purchased taser. The douchebag has been honey-trapped, for want of a better term, by teen psychos McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) and Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand). The boy was bait and collateral damage.
Since the advent of reality television and social media pages, two of the four horsemen of the cultural apocalypse, the other two being smartphones and selfie sticks, the desire to be famous, to be seen, to be heard 24/7 chimes with the age where our self-worth and self-esteem is almost entirely powered by how many followers we have on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Tyler MacIntyre’s Tragedy Girls is a whip-smart horror comedy response to our obsession with personal branding and documenting every mundane facet of daily lives.
Part of what makes Tragedy Girls so fun is not the blunt force satire, but how it makes the audience complicit in the girls’ quest for fame and fortune. You want them to succeed. On the surface, McKayla and Sadie appear as average girls with normal interests. They’re cheerleaders, they sit on the prom board, they talk like they’re the stars of a confessional Nickelodeon show (let’s call it ‘Clarissa Murders Them All’) and their manipulative nature and secret kingdom of death is masked by online personas exploiting the unfolding mayhem in Rosedale under a banner of concern and safety.
The debt to Wes Craven’s neo-slasher, Scream and Michael Lehmann’s iconic Heathers is readily apparent. Tragedy Girls won’t define the zeitgeist like either of its primary influences, but MacIntyre’s film is a winner thanks to a clever script, Shipp and Hildebrand’s engaging chemistry and gory set-pieces.