A starry night. An ageing mid-west bridge. Two teenagers in the back of a car. A bump in the night. A savage murderer. Tragedy Girls’ opener may sound like a typical horror film. Thankfully, it’s anything but.
Going viral isn’t easy, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Blending the satirical barbs at digital culture evidenced in the likes of Ingrid Goes West with the gruesome sensibilities of the most unapologetically gaudy horror, Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) covertly facilitate their own schlocky rampage on small-town America to get that social media following so many desperately crave.
The flick is packed with recognisable faces, among them The Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson and Hot Tub Time Machine’s Craig Robinson. Kevin Durand fills in as the all-purpose black-clad sociopath of indeterminate strength, with Tragedy Girls even pausing its action momentarily to acknowledge the debt it owes, along with so many others, to Halloween. As with it’s stylistic predecessors, you won’t be hard-pressed to figure who will die and even in what order – the joy here is seeing it unfold in such a caustically macabre fashion.
One particular end for a key character following a motorcycle crash rings strong among the film’s varied dispatches, his final moments one of a few which herald the at once subversive, scathingly satirical and morbid tone Tragedy Girls strives to achieve throughout.
The performances of the two leads above all elevating the regularly hilarious material, the not infrequent nor dissimilar chapters in the gruelling blood-soaked rampage render the film engaging if of increasingly lesser impact as the bodies pile up; it’s later stages bereft of the quick-paced, uncompromising tone which better characterized Tragedy Girls’ first acts. Running over-length for a film that near-exhausted the fairly enjoyable novelty of it central premise after its first hour, the feature packs in an ill-judged third act, doing little justice to the heft of all that came before.
Sacrificing the satisfyingly ironic ending that could well have sufficed from what appeared to be a resolutely concluding note some two thirds of the way in for an awkward penultimate confrontation and a King-esque finale woefully out of place in what otherwise carries a measuredly subversive tone, each of the enviable appearances by the eclectic mix of performers are similarly cursory nor fully realised.
Succeeding nonetheless for its engrossing satirical edge and consummate leads, the most memorable horror flicks have always managed to fancifully hone in on our modern fears and anxieties and in this respect Tragedy Girls is certainly no exception.
Tragedy Girls screened at the Sydney Underground Film Festival