Tyler MacIntyre digs up the old 90s teen movie model and gives it a fresh new coat of make-up, in this total firecracker of a horror comedy. Tragedy Girls is Clueless, Mean Girls, Jawbreaker and every other teen masterclass we’ve come to love over the years, squashed down deep into a blender with the likes of Scream, Friday the 13th and the most enduring of slasher movies. Viciously dark, beautifully written and oddly, really quite meaningful too, it’s a rare gem of a genre flick that nails the balance between multiple worlds and delivers what is undeniably one of the funnest horror movies of the year.
And front and centre of it all are the titular Tragedy Girls themselves, Sadie and McKayla (Deadpool’s Brianna Hildebrand and X-Men: Apocalypse’s Alexandra Shipp), a wise-cracking dynamite duo that rattle off more hashtags per hour than your average Twitter-bot. Rulers of their high-school senior class, the two bond over all the cliche teen girl favourites: fashion, social media, cheer-squad and, oh yeah, murder. Deep into what soon becomes a string of elaborate small-town slayings on their classmates, the girls find their true-crime blog, that follows their hidden escapades, “blowing up” online and embark on a year-long mission to turn themselves into world-renowned celebrities the only way they know how.
There’s a reason the 90s model for this stuff always worked better, and it’s the same reason there hasn’t really been a cult driven teen movie since 2004’s Mean Girls: social media. Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram haven’t just become “all the rage” now among the kids, they’ve very literally taken over life as we know it. Making a movie about the teenage condition without at least alluding to it now is nigh-on impossible. Far too many before this have been sunk by misunderstanding and misrepresenting social media on film, it’s tricky business. And in fact, no film has managed it quite as well in recent years as Tragedy Girls.
Although it’s largely a total shit-kicker of a satire on the 21st-century teenage dream of internet stardom, the reason MacIntyre’s movie really excels is down to his foundations. Underneath this all is a film about friendship and psychopathy – the two un-moveable core ideals of the teen and slasher genres in a nutshell. The rest is all stitched in over the top, diluted with enough playful horror in-jokes and whip-smart humour to keep you laughing all the way through to the finale.
And if MacIntyre’s bang-on genre chops weren’t already enough to keep the dream alive, he’s supported by two of the finest female performances in recent genre history too. Not only do Hildebrand and Shipp share a total 50/50 split of the movie’s finest moments, they’re so entwined in their chemistry and delivery that they’re almost seen as one complete entity throughout. Part of this is down again to the phenomenal scripting, but the plurality of the girls’ roles is what’s really important here, and what really drives home the friendship-driven third act. Even writing just one deep, vulnerable and brilliantly well-rounded female character seems unlikely for many these days, but Tragedy Girls manages the impossible: a double-act of fierce, vile, but horrendously loveable women.
A secondary plot-line involving a Jason Voorhees-style killer could potentially use some work, and some of the film’s earlier, nastier comedy does ultimately feel a little short-lived, but all-in, this is a total masterclass in teen-movie cinema. A blast from start-to-finish, with a rocket-fuelled script and a pair of the most despicably delectable (and yes, insanely complex) female characters of not just this year, but any year too; Tragedy Girls is a once-in-a-decade event.