SXSW 2017 Review: Tragedy Girls Takes a Stab at Social Media and Mocks Citizen Journalism.
What I love most about film festivals are the surprises that come out of nowhere and Tragedy Girls is a wonderful surprise. Tragedy Girls focuses on Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp), two best friends trying to build a name for themselves online. They are known as the Tragedy Girls and spend most of their time making videos about real-life tragedies taking place in their small town of Rosedale. Sadie and McKayla are obsessed with death, serial killers, and their online popularity. They will do anything to get a bigger following and aren’t afraid of the consequences in order to achieve their dream of becoming the next big thing on social media.
I loved Tragedy Girls. It is the perfect combination of horror and comedy with social commentary mixed in. Tyler MacIntyre and Chris Lee Hill understand the mindset of today’s youth and their obsession with social media. The sharply written script pokes fun at how teenagers spend so much of their free time with their faces buried in their phones. Sadie and McKayla spent all their time worrying about what’s trending, likes, comments, and followers. We live in a world where we can’t escape social media, and citizen journalism has run rampant. Because of this, I couldn’t help but appreciate the scene where a local news reporter tells Sadie and McKayla that they aren’t capable of reporting real news because they aren’t professionals.
It is evident from the very first scene that writer/director Tyler MacIntyre loves and has a great appreciation for horror as a genre. He opens the film with Sadie and some guy making out in a car on a bridge. This opening, as many horror fans know, is a staple moment in a lot of horror films both past and present. Throughout the rest of film, viewers are treated to a series of horror film homages including Scream, Carrie, and Friday the 13th just to name a few. In addition to the tributes, there are a lot of other horror movie tropes throughout which only adds to the fun. These moments serve as an extra bonus for those who consider themselves horror movie connoisseurs.
Tragedy Girls is the type of film that knows what is trying to do and doesn’t hold back. This is a high-energy horror comedy with plenty of laughs, gore, and outrageous deaths. While there isn’t a death scene every five minutes, there are plenty of them throughout the film with each one being somehow better than the last. Without giving anything away, there is a death scene that takes place in a gym. This scene is hilarious as it is bloody and awesome. There is also one that occurs in a high school classroom which was perfectly executed and once again, hilarious to watch.
I found it rather refreshing that the story doesn’t try to showcase Sadie and McKayla as social outcasts but rather popular girls looking to make a bigger name for themselves. As their story unfolds, these two friends keep pushing the stakes further as a way to gain attention from the media. You have to appreciate a film where a police detective tells a teenage girl that she should turn off her location settings for her protection and she replies with “I’d rather die first.”
After seeing Brianna Hildebrand in First Girl I Loved and Deadpool, I knew that she was destined for greatness. Hildebrand’s role as Sadie in Tragedy Girls confirms for the third time in a year that she is here to stay. Mark my words, if Hildebrand keeps picking this strong of material, she is going to be a massive star. With such ease, Hildebrand becomes Sadie, this fame-obsessed teenager with a dark side. She is so charming even though she is completely demented. Hildebrand shares most of her screentime with Alexandra Shipp who as a team are unstoppable. These two actresses play off each another with such ease and finesse. It seems like they are best friends in real life because that is how convincing their friendship comes off on-screen.
Alongside Hildebrand and Shipp, there is a great supporting cast of well-known actors that appear briefly throughout the film. I don’t want to ruin any of the surprises, but I will say that the scenes with Josh Hutcherson, Kevin Durand, and Craig Robinson are all delightful. These actors bring their A-game, and their characters add a lot to the film as a whole. Hutcherson and Robinson shine as the film’s surprise comic relief while Durand’s role as Lowell is the definition of perfect casting.
I must take a moment to applaud Hill and MacIntrye for writing dialogue that feels authentic to today’s youth. There are far too many films where the writers seem to assume how teenagers speak without knowing the lingo per se. That couldn’t be further from the truth with this film. The conversations between Sadie and McKayla felt like ones you would actually hear in high schools across the United States. Also, considering music is such a big part of horror films as well as being a teenager, I thought the music choices in this film were spot-on. Each song in the film fits the tone and adds something to the scene.
All in all, Tragedy Girls is my favorite film to play at SXSW 2017 and is a total blast from start to finish. Every scene feels carefully planned and as a result, is perfectly executed. This is the type of film that can be watched for fun while those looking for something deeper will be sure to appreciate the social commentary. Horror-comedy is one of my favorite genres, so I am delighted to report that Tragedy Girls is easily one of the best of it’s kind. It is the perfect blend of horror and comedy with a story that feels fresh and relevant. #Blessed