My final, final review from the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival this year is for Tragedy Girls. It’s been fun and I hope to cover the fest next year.
McKayla and Sadie are hellbent on building their social media brand by any means necessary. Their brand is murder and the means is killing people. They’re not going into this unprepared though, they’ve captured a serial killer and are keeping him locked up and eating dog food so that they can pry murder secrets and strategies out of him. They’ve taken over for the killer and put his “work” into high gear to create a scare in their hometown. That makes their serial killer focused twitter account blow up! Will the girls get caught? Will they have second thoughts or a crisis of conscience? Can they trust each other to keep their secret? Don’t worry, all of these questions are answered in the film.
Tragedy Girls has a lot going for it. It’s slick looking. It has some great, clever kills. It’s often frenetic and fun. It has a snarky sense of humor. And it’s winky self-aware in ways that have elicited some comparisons to Scream. And, sure, it’s like a very 2017 Scream. Only trouble is, 2017 hasn’t been the best year from a (U.S.) societal standpoint. And these teen murder mavens are 100% millennial stereotype. They are (malignant) narcissists – image obsessed and attention-craving. They are glued to their phones. They are somehow simultaneously very concerned with what other people think of them and not at all concerned. And they are “killing” an established industry – the serial killer industry! This is fine, if all we are asked to do as the viewer is to watch mayhem as cautionary tale or case study. Maybe we’ll even get to see a well-deserved comeuppance. But we’re not. We’re expected to sympathize with these girls (played by adult actors of course, which is its own whole thing). Now, I may be old fashioned, but if you’re asking me to sympathize with sociopaths, it’s going to take more than a cool blacklight mask and a penchant for banter. We do get to see the girls’ bond tested and we get some of their backstory, but it’s not relatable. Nor is it a backstory that garners sympathy. Does every genre film need a sympathetic focus? A hero? No. Of course not. Are we ready for a self-aware, snarky Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer? (perhaps a Negasonic Teenage Serial Killer?) I guess I’m not.
The Final Cut: Some folks may find Tragedy Girls to be a fun, slick story of BFFs killing a lot of folks for followers and funsies, but others (me) will find it cynical, derivative, and not quite as clever as it hopes to be.