Tragedy Girls must have been a nifty elevator pitch: two enterprising teens with a true-crime website decide to start providing their own content. That's it. Just in time for Halloween.
Teen slasher comedies are nothing new, but Tragedy Girls is merrily goosed along by the BFF chemistry between its two stars, Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool's Negasonic Teenage Warhead) and Alexandra Shipp (Storm in X-Men: Apocalypse). Director Tyler MacIntyre, who cowrote the script, provides the expected genre shoutouts (there's a Final Destination allusion, and Dario Argento gets namechecked), but he doesn't overdo it, opting instead to give the two happy psychopaths at the center of things room to create their own slasher classic.
Sadie Cunningham (Hildebrand) and McKayla Hooper (Shipp), high school seniors in the snoozy midwestern town of Rosedale, are all about serial killers and social media. When an actual serial killer starts whacking locals, they decide to catch him and grill him for professional advice. If they could work up a death wave of their own, they'd have guaranteed scoops—and of course clicks—for their website. ("@tragedygirls" is their Twitter account.)
The movie begins with a classic slasher scene: a guy and a girl making out in a parked car, spooky sounds in the woods outside. Yes, it's the killer, a creep named Lowell (Kevin Durand), and that would seem to be a machete in his hand. But he's walked into a setup, and soon Sadie and McKayla have dragged him off to their makeshift lair, where they happily snap selfies while poking him with a cattle prod.
Lowell declines to mentor the girls in the homicidal arts, but that doesn't faze them. In high school there's no shortage of people who could use a good killing, and Sadie and McKayla get right to work. One of their victims experiences an especially bloody (and hilarious) motorcycle mishap; another succumbs to a terminal gym workout (even more uproarious); and another comes down with a, shall we say, splitting headache. Soon we fear for the welfare of a snippy bitch on the prom committee (Savannah Jayde) and for the town fire marshal (Craig Robinson), who has vowed to put an end to the sudden eruption of municipal carnage. Meanwhile, Lowell, still tied up back at the lair, tries to turn the girls against one another.
There are a couple of hunky guys on hand (Hunger Games vets Josh Hutcherson and Jack Quaid), but they're plot fodder, and no match for Sadie and McKayla, who serve up their sadism with lashings of twisty teen-speak. ("Somebody's jelly," Sadie says, detecting a note of envy in her partner's voice.) The movie is greatly enriched by its fresh, snappy score (by Russ Howard III) and by Pawel Pogorzelski's yummy cinematography. But the two stars—Hildebrand with her blue-splashed hair and chilly stare and Shipp with her energetic sarcasm (she sometimes resembles a slightly younger Scarlett Johansson)—are all the picture really needs. They're having a ball playing two girls determined to become "horror legends"—no matter who they have to toss into the grinder to do so. "To make an omelet," Sadie says, "you have to kill some ex-boyfriends."