Tragedy Girls

“Tragedy Girls”

Written by Chris Lee Hill and Tyler MacIntyre, based on an original screenplay by Justin Olson 

Directed by Tyler MacIntyre

2017

1 hour, 36 minutes

I watched it on iTunes.

Since February is both Black History Month and Women in Horror Month, I figured I’d combine my viewing fun and seek out some horror movies with black women in the lead. My first choice is “Tragedy Girls,” a horror comedy that teeters between a farce about social media and a touching tale of female friendship. McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) and Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) are super besties who share a love for glitter, bright colors, and murder. The duo run a social media blog about true crime called Tragedy Girls, emphasis on that plural. People are dying in their small town but the local police keeps asserting these are accidents. The girls campaign that there is a serial killer on the loose, not telling anyone, of course, that they’ve trapped him in hopes of learning from him, and they’re now the ones doing all the killing.

Despite director MacIntyre’s best efforts, the film still has a little of that remove of it’s a movie about women that was obviously made by a guy. But he doesn’t fetishize the girls. He lets them be brilliant and ruthless and close. Despite all the killing and gore, this is really a story about how a girl’s best friend is the most important person in her life. And Shipp and Hildebrand do a fantastic job, showing complexity even as the movie goes broad and has them toss off dumb quips in the middle of cutting up a body. There are few taglines as perfect as this movie’s “Friends Who Slay Together, Stay Together.” 

This flick was a lot of fun, has terrific style (gorgeous, colorful, energetic) and kicked my ass “nooooooo!” style with a few of its twists. There’s tons of gore and MacIntyre goes back and forth between using that gore for a fucked up joke and genuinely shocking us. It’s a smart script, even if it does still have a few moments of “why doesn’t he say something?” frustration.

All that being sad, there’s something about the movie that isn’t true love for me. Horror comedies are so damn tricky and I think I’m maybe pickier about them than I should be. But it was a good time. Shout out to the heartbreaking Jack Quaid (yep, Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid’s son) as the sincere but misguided Jordan, who’s incorrectly interested in Sadie and also to Craig Robinson, who has a small part as Big Al, the local fire chief. Robinson is always so good and grounded and has this easy pathos to him. Go check him out as a devoted dad in “Morris from America.” Much as I liked that whole movie, I wish he’d been the lead there. 

I didn’t catch any mention of McKayla being black or anything that seemed to even speak specifically to what it might be to be a black teenager in a small town. It’s perhaps telling that she’s the friend who gets ostracized for a time but that’s the closest I could come. Her family is even more stable and well off than Sadie’s. She’s just as hardcore and smart as her white friend, maybe even more so. I dug that. That’s the goal, right? To have some films that shine a light on race and gender and class, and then there’s making sure that not every horror comedy doesn’t just feature two blondes.

And since I’m a white lady, I absolutely acknowledge my views on stories featuring black characters may not be as well informed as I’d like. But I figure the more we all talk about and write about movies with more diverse viewpoints, the better. So if I get something wrong or you have any insights at all, please do share! I’ll also always take viewing recommendations, too! And if you’d like to read more on black voices in horror, much love to these websites:

http://www.graveyardshiftsisters.com

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