Tragedy Girls is a 2017 American horror comedy film that subverts key elements of the slasher, thriller genre to make an interesting, funny take on a classic horror story. In all honesty, I am kind of surprised this film didn’t get more attention or even a cult following of some capacity after its release. Like other subversion movies before it, Tragedy Girls uses classic genre tropes (obsessed horror fans, characters with deep understanding and knowledge of horror, “final” girls, use of modern technology as a plot point, etc.) to construct its world and characters. Unlike, most of the past beloved films (Scream, Cabin in the Woods, etc.) this one leads far more heavily into the humor and has more believable, if not annoying, teenagers (most likely due to the fact of having younger actors portraying the teenagers as opposed to 30 year olds playing young adults). While I cannot say if these choices, and the more colorful teenage atmosphere and narrative, are responsible for the lack of attention this film received, but they do not divert from the entertainment the film provides nor the oddly poignant commentary on social media influence and fame; in fact, it reinforces that theme to a terrifying degree considering real world circumstances by comparison.
Tragedy Girls tells the story of high school seniors, McKayla Cooper (played by Alexandra Shipp) and Sadie Cunningham (played by Brianna Hildebrand), who run a true crime blog, the titular Tragedy Girls, in their small Midwestern town of Rosedale. Unfortunately, there is not much to report for these two to capitalize on in their pursuits of social media stardom. However, these two are nothing if not proactive. Thus, they take their love of serial killer stories, tropes, and understanding of social media influence to the next level and make a serial killer frenzy happen. They use a friend as bait, in the classic “horny teenagers caught in the car by the roadside” plot device, to lure serial killer Lowell Orson Lehmann (played by Kevin Durand) into their grasps. The two manage to subdue and capture Lehmann with the intent of having him help their true crime fame mission. Lehmann, of course, refuses, and the girls decide to go on their own murder spree while making him their fall guy.
At first, their attempts at raising their profile fails since the sheriff disregards their claims of a serial killer on the loose as the ramblings of two girls’ overactive imaginations. Even after getting help from their video editor and sheriff’s son, Jordan Welch (played by Jack Quaid), their attempts at spreading the word are at an impasse. Accordingly, the girls become even more proactive and simply start a murder spree all on their own. They go down the list of popular, beloved individuals of the town, who also just happen to be taking away from their own growing fame and significance, and murder them in attention drawing manners to get those views and clicks.
Of course, there is the 3rd Act break up between the girls as one rises after a botched kill attempt, and the other flounders and becomes jealous from the garnered attention. While not unexpected, I’ll admit the adherence to the standard three act structure with the anticipated plot beats is one complaint I have with this film. Again, it’s following the usual narrative route and arcs, but seemed unusually forced and unnecessary in this case; even more so with how quickly it was resolved in the film’s narrative. Either way, the girls’ adventure culminates in a huge murder spree and death count at their prom. This tragedy is what catapults both of them into social media fame, book deals, college scholarships, potential movie/television deals, and the grand future they have desired. Again, unlike other subversion films, the “final girls” are the real villains of the film, and they actually win in an unexpected ending.
So, in short, definitely check out Tragedy Girls. It is currently available to stream on Hulu and Amazon and can be purchased/rented through YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, and most other digital services. It’s worth the watch, especially if you already happen to have either a Hulu or Amazon account.
One last fun fact: it is kind of funny how the three leads all ended up in major superhero productions, particularly how the principle two were X-Men.