A teen-slasher-comedy with a social commentary on our obsession with technology
Director: Tyler MacIntyre/2017
Tyler MacIntyre’s latest film Tragedy Girls may just have its finger on the most accurate cynical view of millennials and their over-obsession with social media popularity. Now that is not to say that Tragedy Girls paints with a broad brush of all high school millennials, but it does have these girls representing a more prevalent obsession that is evolving with our ever changing gadgets and apps.
Tragedy Girls follows the disturbing exploits of Sadie Cunningham (Brianna Hildebrand-Deadpool) and McKayla Hooper (Alexandra Shipp-X-Men: Apocalypse, Straight Outta Compton) who run the Twitter handle “@TragedyGirls” which documents real-life deaths in their small Kentucky town. Obsessed with trying to get more followers, the girls have stepped up their game, tracking a serial killer, luring him out to where he usually strikes at Sweetheart Bridge where Sadie will be making out with a high school boy. When the killer shows up, she’ll sacrifice this poor boy to the killer for the chance for her and McKayla to capture the killer and help their @TragedyGirls twitter feed go viral.
Everything goes as planned, with the girls using some techniques they learned from Breaking Bad to get rid of the poor make-out victim’s body, showing no signs of being squeamish when it comes time to hack up the body to dissolve it in the acid mixture. They soon devise an even more sinister plan: to begin doing the killings themselves so that they can always have access to the footage to help @tragedygirls be all that it can be.
Sadie and McKayla in this film capture a few stereotypes to demonstrate the social commentary that is being presented in the script. Sadie is poor and white, but her economic status doesn’t really keep her down. She still embodies everything that comes from her white privilege (as it is discussed these days). She dresses fashionably, has a fresh hair-style, and cheers on the cheer squad and is on the prom planning committee. McKayla is black, but comes from an upper-middle class surburban home where she has been given every opportunity by her extremely loving parents who she has fooled with her “good-girl”/”Daddy’s-girl” act. These girls have no real struggle at all. This is the epitome of first-world problems. They are both just so well-off and shallow that they soullessly seek superficial affirmation on a social media app, at the expense of anyone that gets in their way, or who simply annoys them.
This film then avoids much of the racial components, and instead looks at how people with plenty, and no value of human life in their heart, are probably more dangerous than those suffering racial, gender, or socio-economic struggles. This plays out as they continually escalate their killings and documentation of the deaths as their online videos and interviews always seek to question the ability of the local police chief, Sheriff Blane Welch (Timothy V. Murphy). This makes things a bit awkward for the Sheriff, besides being called out for not capturing the killer, as his son Jordan (Jack Quaid) has a crush on Sadie, and has been doing the film editing for the @tragedygirls’ Twitter postings.
This film is playing in Houston at the Alamo Drafthouse at Mason Park, as well as other select theaters around the country. It would be a great experience in a theater like The Alamo Drafhouse as the Drafthouse understands not only this type of film and genre, but the also the culture that helps a film like this thrive. It also features cameos from Josh Hutcherson (Hunger Games Films) and Craig Robinson (Morris From America, The Office) that work pretty well as they get entangled in these girls’ homicidal dreams.
The film is a composite of Clueless, Mean Girls, and the killer’s motivation in Scream. The gore is liberally applied and the blood flows freely. The jokes are on the nose, the social commentary strong, and the humor dark, much like Heathers. There is also not a moral redemption narrative or a societal justice conclusion like in so many social commentaries. This film is a mirror, and clearly means to present the audience with the horrifying notion that some people are more willing to sacrifice human life for the allure of gaining fame and acceptance for the sake of simply being famous. For Sadie and McKayla, the ends always justifies the means, and the more outrageous the means, the bigger their fame. Fame, which leads to money, is the only shared value among souls like this.
Of course, the film doesn’t seek to reduce every millennial to this stereotype. Most are just your average kids, with average teenager-type problems. They long to go to Prom, see their friends, find love, do well in school to get into a better college, go out and be social, etc. This is what makes the stark contrast stand out all the more as we evaluate the values and actions of Sadie and McKayla against the backdrop of everyone else.
This leaves us, the viewer, with lots of ways to question our relationship with our technology, and what the collateral damage is to us having portable devices that feed the ego at the expense of our soul. Like Roger Waters charged in 1992, “this species has amused itself to death” as he lamented our future demise gathered around television sets and the latest technology. Tragedy Girls is a fun time, even in spite of introducing us to some rather dark reflections about our current youth culture.