Combustible Celluloid
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With: Alexandra Shipp, Brianna Hildebrand, Josh Hutcherson, Craig Robinson, Kevin Durand, Jack Quaid, Timothy V. Murphy, Nicky Whelan, Kerry Rhodes, Austin Abrams, Andy Bethea, Rosalind Chao, Keith Hudson, Savannah Jayde, Loren Lester, Marycarmen Lopez, Sophia Mitchell, Elise Neal, Tory Stolper, William Tokarsky
Written by: Chris Lee Hill, Tyler MacIntyre, Justin Olson
Directed by: Tyler MacIntyre
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references
Running Time: 98
Date: 10/20/2017

Tragedy Girls (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Messed-up Besties

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though it owes a great deal to Heathers and several, newer social media-obsessed movies, this black comedy still has enough fresh venom and crazy cleverness to make it a fresh satirical entertainment.

In Tragedy Girls, small town best friends McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) and Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) are obsessed with becoming social media stars. Fortunately for them, a local serial killer, Lowell (Kevin Durand), is on the loose. Through persistence and planning, they catch him and lock him up. They then begin murdering more locals, posting it all online, and blaming Lowell.

Things take a turn when their video editor Jordan (Jack Quaid) begins to show his feelings for Sadie, driving a wedge between the two friends. Worse, when Sadie accidentally saves Jordan and helps stop an escaped Lowell, she becomes a role model, rather than a celebrity. But McKayla has big plans for the senior prom that might just help set the girls back on their original path once again.

With Tragedy Girls, director and co-writer Tyler MacIntyre has enough courage to focus on characters that are not so perfectly likable or admirable, using their friendship and their struggles to maintain that friendship as an anchor. It's not so much that we're rooting for them to become internet-famous, but we'd like them to stay by each other's side. (When the so-called "good" character interferes, it feels more like a betrayal than a moment of heroism.)

Amazingly, the movie is bright and slick, but without relying on gobs of social media imagery; it stays rooted in the present and in the characters. The supporting cast is uniformly hilarious, from Kevin Durand as the sneering, cackling killer to Craig Robinson as an iron-pumping firefighter and Nicky Whelan as a duplicitous teacher.

Especially funny is Josh Hutcherson, viciously satirizing his teen heartthrob image with the help of some well-placed music cues. But it's Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand's show, and they know how to run it.

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