'Tragedy Girls': Film Review

Strains too hard for cult status.

Two BFFs resort to serial killing to increase their social media prominence in Tyler MacIntyre's comic horror film.

Sending up social media has become a lazy cinematic cliché, but that doesn't stop director Tyler MacIntyre from mining such familiar territory in his teen-oriented horror comedy. Attempting to combine Clueless-style humor revolving around self-absorbed high school girls with slasher film tropes, Tragedy Girls proves neither funny nor scary enough to be distinctive. Nonetheless, the pic proves watchable enough thanks to the charismatic performances by lead actresses Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp and amusing cameos by Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) and the ubiquitous Craig Robinson (currently starring on Fox's Ghosted).

Hildebrand and Shipp, whose genre credentials have been established with their prominent turns in Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse, respectively, play Sadie and McKayla, mean girls and BFFs who collaborate on their "Tragedy Girls" website devoted to true crimes. They've had plenty of raw material to work with recently, thanks to the prodigious efforts of a serial killer who's been terrorizing their small Midwestern town of Rosedale.

The film's clever opening depicts Sadie being pursued through a forest by said killer (Kevin Durand), only to turn the tables on him with the help of her partner. They've captured the murderous psycho because they intend to continue perpetrating his killing spree themselves on the theory that it will make it that much easier to provide content for their website. When he refuses to share his tricks of the trade, they resort to tasering him to get him to change his mind, to no avail.

That doesn't stop the budding serial killers from beginning their spree. Their victims include McKayla's motorcycle riding ex-boyfriend (Hutcherson), who, much to the girls' consternation, has an even bigger Instagram following than they do, and "Big Al" (Robinson), the town's fire chief and (in one of the film's slyest jokes) its resident sex symbol. Meanwhile, Sadie strikes up a flirtation with smitten fellow student Jordan (Jack Quaid), with their relationship made complicated by his father being the local sheriff (Timothy V. Murphy).

Screenwriters MacIntyre and Chris Lee Hill infuse the proceedings with wink-wink references to horror-film master Dario Argento and the Final Destination series, among other things, with the principal humor deriving from the amusingly bungled, graphically depicted killings (the battle to the death between the two girls and Big Al in a gym being a gory, slapstick highlight).

But much like its titular characters, Tragedy Girls seems to think it's much cleverer than it is. The mostly uninspired spoofing of horror movie cliches and the predictable plot twists add up to very little while the confusing narrative lurches around like someone with a knife stuck in his chest (which happens a lot in the film). And the notion that the current generation's lives revolve around social media has long passed its sell-by date. Following in the wake of so many similarly styled, jokey efforts, Tragedy Girls mainly proves that, at this point, a truly revolutionary horror film would be one that played it totally straight.  

Production companies: It's the Comeback Kids, New Artist Pictures, Ardor Pictures, Dawn's Light
Distributor: Gunpowder & Sky
Cast: Brianna Hildebrand, Alexandra Shipp, Kevin Durand, Jack Quaid, Josh Hutcherson, Craig Robinson, Timothy V. Welch
Director: Tyler MacIntyre
Screenwriters: Tyler MacIntyre, Chris Lee Hill
Producers: Armen Aghaeian, Tara Ansley, Anthony Holt, Edward Mokhtarian, Craig Robinson, Cameron Van Hoy
Executive producers: Ray Bouderau, Alexander Ferguson, Eric Fischer, Tyler W. Konney, Kerry Rhodes, Traceigh Scottel, Richard Switzer, Gregory Thomas, Anthony Horne, Viviana Zarragoitia
Director of photography: Pawel Pogorzelski
Production designer: Mars Feehery
Editor: Martin Penser
Composer: Russ Howard III
Costume designer: Dakota Keller
Casting: Lisa Beach, Sarah Katzman

Rated R, 98 minutes