This time of year can feel a little stale for horror fans. I watch the scary stuff all year, but during October (and let’s face it, most of September) I turn my horror habit into a full-blown addiction. The thing is, come November, I usually suffer a horror hangover that leaves me looking for other fare to cleanse my cinematic palate of the blood, the ghosts, and the angry weapon-wielders. After a month of rare steak, Tragedy Girls felt like lemon sorbet.
Sadie and McKayla (Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp) gleefully run the @TragedyGirls handle, reporting local crime stories as only two social media obsessed teenage girls could. With their follower count trailing far behind their aspirations of fame, the best friends capture the serial killer loose in their hometown and use his expertise to put their site in the spotlight. The ladies begin committing their own string of murders and use their exclusive knowledge of the crimes to hike up their hits.
It’s rare for me to feel like I’m seeing something that’s not just a slightly different spin on the usual story. Tragedy Girls feels entirely of the moment, as fresh and funny as it is warped and bloody. There’s a complete absence of “you know you shouldn’t root for these girls.” Director Tyler MacIntyre (Patchwork, available on Netflix) wants you on the Tragedy Girls team, and X-Men alums Hildebrand and Shipp make it easy to side with their perky maniacs. MacIntyre and co-writer Chris Lee Hill manage to balance some seriously grisly stuff with honesty about teenagerdom that’s timeless, even if hashtags and hair color aren’t. Adolescent friendships carry an automatic intensity. Emotional and sexual development churning forward hand-in-hand make small challenges like prom seem insurmountable, and bigger problems like, well, prom, seem catastrophic. MK and Sadie as a friendship unit are self-obsessed and absurd, hyper-sensitive to the world around them and fighting to remain unaffected by it all. Their self-confidence is genuine, headstrong, and it feels like their invisible third bestie.
In a world full of people who are famous for doing nothing, you have to give it to Sadie and McKayla for taking the initiative to carve their own path. So what if the path is carved with an actual butcher knife? Their laser focus and dedication to not only their brand but each other is surprisingly sweet in a film that’s otherwise as black and twisted as the leftover licorice at the bottom of a trick-or-treat bag.