The Movie Waffler IFI Horrorthon 2017 Review - TRAGEDY GIRLS | The Movie Waffler

IFI Horrorthon 2017 Review - TRAGEDY GIRLS

tragedy girls review
A pair of cheerleaders carry on the grisly work of the serial killer they capture.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Tyler MacIntyre

Starring: Alexandra Shipp, Brianna Hildebrand, Josh Hutcherson, Nicky Whelan, Kevin Durand, Craig Robinson

tragedy girls poster

If you've seen Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand, the young stars of Tragedy Girls, before, it's probably been in their respective roles in X-Men: Apocalypse and Deadpool. Those movies gave Shipp and Hildebrand little to do beyond standing around in the background. Further cementing horror's growing reputation as the genre most likely to gift a young female star a meaty role, Tragedy Girls puts the pair front and centre, showcasing their remarkable talents.

tragedy girls

Hildebrand and Shipp are Sadie and McKayla (S&M, geddit?), the titular Tragedy Girls, a pair of social media obsessed cheerleaders who also share an obsession with serial killers. When they trap and confine the Rosedale Ripper (Kevin Durand), an intimidating figure responsible for a string of unsolved killings in their MidWest smalltown community, the girls continue his work themselves, using their first hand insight to boost their true crime blog and become internet stars.

Writer-director Tyler MacIntyre has a handful of features under his belt, but 2015's body-horror splatstick satire Patchwork established him as a potential master of mining crackerjack comic performances from female stars. MacIntyre continues to fulfil this promise with Tragedy Girls, which boasts as charismatic a pair of comedic central performances as you could hope to find. Particularly impressive is Shipp, who manages to be not only hilarious, but genuinely scary, her character becoming increasingly deranged as the story progresses.

tragedy girls

Tragedy Girls has enough material in its premise for two or three horror-comedies, as though MacIntyre is seizing a chance he may not be granted in the future. The film poses a lot of questions, like what if bloggers were responsible for the crimes they reported on, or what if a Hannibal Lector type figure was instructing a novice serial killer rather than an agent of the law? Somewhat frustratingly, Tragedy Girls pays lip service to these questions, failing to explore such concepts in depth. It's also muddy in its commentary on social media, as we hear a lot of vague talk about their online fame, but never see any visual representations of this, and we're left scratching our heads as to how exactly they're translating their unique experience into web content.

Thankfully, MacIntyre's script is amusing enough to keep us distracted from such details, packed as it is with zinging one-liners and visual gags. A moment in which the central pair of sociopaths are almost rumbled in the act of chopping up the corpse of a fellow cheerleader by the school janitor is particularly well staged and played.

tragedy girls

Shipp and Hildebrand's energy is infectious, and the cartoonish presentation of the otherwise disturbing events keeps us on their side for most of the running time. In the final third however the film unconvincingly attempts to posit one of the devilish duo as an innocent victim who has been manipulated by her partner in crime. It doesn't remotely work, given the crimes we've witnessed her willingly commit throughout. With the tone becoming muddy in the closing stages, a final act of malevolence from the titular teen terrorists crosses a line from comedy to out and out revulsion, sending us out of the cinema feeling a little guilty about embracing the antics of the murderous McKayla and the sadistic Sadie.