Did you see “Scream 4”? Do you remember the finale and surprise reveal, as well as the reasoning for the murderer’s devious deeds? Well, then you’ve seen “Tragedy Girls.” It feels a lot like Tyler MacIntyre loved the finale to “Scream 4” so much that he took that one twenty minute explanation, and transformed it in to a ninety minute movie that presents glimmers of brilliance, but stumbles quite often. While many will liken “Tragedy Girls” to “Heathers,” it’s actually about as smug and annoyingly self-satisfied as films like “Detention” and “Easy A.”
Sadie and McKayla are internet obsessed high school students living in the Mid West who are obsessed with becoming internet celebrities. With a vicious serial killer on the loose, Sadie and McKayla succeed in trapping him and kidnapping him. Much to his surprise, they’re anxious to become serial killers in their own right, and they want him to mentor them. Along the way, the pair of friends begins staging vicious murders for their classmates for the pursuit of internet infamy, but keep hitting walls when said murders look more like accidents. As expected, soon enough Sadie begins to fall for a classmate, and has an encounter with what seems like normality, and this presents a rift for both friends, as they have their own ideas and goals.
What’s a psychotic murdering pair of friends to do? MacIntyre and the writers can break out of this narrative that becomes monotonous very easily, but never follow through at all. There are plot elements introduced that are never fully developed, and the climax just feels so safe and easy. I wanted to care about this narrative, and I anxiously wanted to take delight in the acts of these devious girls, but the writing just is never strong enough to bring us along for their demented ride. “Tragedy Girls” will also probably be pegged as an LGBT movie soon enough as characters Sadie and McKayla are so deep in to their friendship, the movie is practically a love story. I wish the writing would have also embraced that idea right in to the very end. Maybe there was a fear that audiences would suspect the movie of demonizing the LGBT culture? Who knows?
Much of what occurs I took anticipation in watching unfold, but it instead loses momentum easily. I was anxious to see how the girls would implement the serial killer as their mentor, but nothing ever develops there. Kevin Durand is also painfully under utilized, in what results in a glorified cameo, spending most of his time draped in the shadows, and mumbling dialogue. The murders also feel so hastily staged and abrupt that they never mount interesting tension or suspense, mainly because the girls have such an easy time with everything they do. When one scene involves the girls dismembering a classmate, only for a janitor to walk in during the middle of their acts, and leave while barely noticing them at all, it’s tough to build any kind of tension from that point on.
Everything is so low stakes for these characters that it wears thin very quickly. For all intents and purposes Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp are fine in their roles as inseparable friends who delight in doling out gory deaths for anyone who promises to draw attention from them online. It’s just the disjointed narrative, and script that works very hard to adopt this sense of pitch black comedy, ultimately turns “Tragedy Girls” in to an awfully annoying horror comedy with glimmers of brilliance.
Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.