The true meaning of friendship is partaking in cold-blooded murder with your bestie. That’s what life is all about for Tyler MacIntyre’s Tragedy Girls which recently opened at the New Parkway in Oakland. For a small, dark n’ quirky film like this, it was a real treat to see it get a theatrical screening so close to home.
Synopsis: “A twist on the slasher genre, following two death-obsessed teenage girls who use their online show about real-life tragedies to send their small mid-western town into a frenzy and cement their legacy as modern horror legends.”
Starring Alexandra Shipp as MK (best known as Storm in the new X-Men movies) and Brianna Hildebrand as Sadie (the best part of last year’s Deadpool – Negasonic Teenage Warhead), Tragedy Girls finds a stronger emotional core neck-deep in murderers, sociopaths and worst of all – social media obsessed teens than most Pixar films (who bend over backwards to make you cry – talk about torture…). That core is rooted in Sadie and MK’s friendship. As perverse as it sounds, there’s something endearing about their bubbly, yet morbid shared fascination with mass murder. It’s a genuine, heart-felt bond that keeps the otherwise hilariously morbid and snake-fuckingly outlandish movie’s feet on the ground. Like some kind of live-action version of a Sick, Sad World (fans of MTV’s Daria know what I’m talking about) mixed with a buddy comedy, Tragedy Girls keeps the tone light and fun for the murder but much more sincere when it comes to the girls’ emotional connection to each other.
Nearly every murder/death/kill is executed with a wry sense of humor or flat out bizarre moments of ludicrousness that defuses the horror elements of the movie with dark comedic overtones. Seeing some of the truly inspired set design/largely practical horror effects done with such an original flair is a very refreshing change for the oft-stagnant horror genre. There’s a level of detail and creativity to the staged deaths that not only reflect the director’s love of the genre but also further informs the audience into the Tragedy Girls’ personality – they want to make a splash with this sleepy, mid-western town.
For a movie with wall-to-wall murders it’s not really about death – well, not in the way that Seven or The Bone Collector (yeah, I saw it – so what?) is at least. In many ways it’s about how provincial/square-af life can feel like a fate worse than death. For Sadie and MK, they long for a world bigger than their insular hometown where people obsess over who is going to be Homecoming Queen and society seems to end at the city limits. Many will see this movie as a metaphor for the empty-hearted quest for insta-fame (see Ingrid Goes West for a great example of that), but it seems to be more about how empty a normal life can be for those who don’t fit in. Both girls scoff at convention and see no value in a normie life. The same way people see insta-fame as a hollow, vapid lifestyle, the Tragedy Girls see the classic “marry-your-high-school-sweet-heart-settle-down-2.5-kids-white-picket-fence” small town dream the same way and would kill (literally, obviously) to not fall victim to it. Like a murderous, modern day version of Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane their friendship stems from a mutual distain for the painfully ordinary people in their town.
And, of course, friendship is the most important thing of all. Both Hildebrand and Shipp carve out two distinctly charismatic and intimidating performances that don’t fall back on clichés or stereotypes for (and I am loathe to even use this over-played, over-used, hack-journalism buzzword) Millennials. Shipp’s MK leans harder into the serial killer lifestyle which creates a rift between her and Sadie (who starts to experiment with the normie life – hopefully it’s just a phase). The two have a dynamic that is the real focus of the movie. It’s not “MURDER,” it’s “more like, idk, just killing with my BFF or whatevs….” You could replace homicide with any normal high school activity (putting on a play, trying to throw a big party, staring a band) and the story would still work because of Shipp and Hildebrand’s chemistry (plus they’re both just a couple of bad-asses).
This is MacIntyre’s most polished film to date (though Patchwork was way more bizarre, like Troma-levels bizarre…in a good way) and definitely has “cult classic” written all over it as it would have thrived in the horror fanatic’s tape-trading, VHS days of yore. Hopefully the impending VoD release for Tragedy Girls helps get more eyes on this film. If you’re lucky enough to have it playing in a theater nearby definitely make the trip out to see this one because it is an absolute bloody riot to see with a crowd.
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