*. I get it. At least I think I do. It’s a satire on the blood and guts of high school, with a pair of teenage girls who are aspiring serial killers. The only new wrinkle to this old story being that we’re in the age of social media so they’re murdering people as a way to drive traffic to their blog.
*. Yes, blog. Remember those? Well, I’m still here anyway.
*. Right away Tragedy Girls runs into all kinds of problems. First: while satire isn’t always about knee-slapping laughs, it usually works on some level as comedy. This movie doesn’t. I want to say right away that I wasn’t offended by its nihilism or bleakness. That gets a pass from me. But it’s just nihilistic. It’s not shocking or insightful. And it’s never funny.
*. On the DVD commentary track director Tyler McIntyre and co-writer Chris Lee Hill mention how “super funny” and “hilarious” some scenes are, but I didn’t get a smile out of any of them. Apparently the biggest laugh line was the when the girls reunite at the end, saying “I missed you so much.” That’s a laugh line? I must be out of touch.
*. Second: there’s nothing new here. Like a lot of self-aware horror-comedies from this period it’s full of in-jokes that reference other horror movies. The business of naming characters after famous horror directors, for example, has by now almost become a cliché (on the commentary track it’s said that this began with Prom Night 2). But all the winks and nods (there’s even a preposterous reference to Cannibal Holocaust!) only underline how old it all is. And I’m not just talking about the horror stuff. The satire is old too. It’s Heathers and Mean Girls, and pretty much any essay by John Waters on our fascination with killers as celebrities (from Female Trouble to Serial Mom). The only thing somewhat new here is that the girls have cellphones.
*. Third: sticking with the social media angle, I don’t think any kind of point is being made about teens and how their use of the Internet is affecting them. The teacher here gives a brief lecture on the rise of narcissism and psychopathic behaviour and how it may be related to the selfie generation, but in the first place that’s not saying anything we don’t already know and in the second it doesn’t seem to apply to these particular girls. Are Sadie and McKayla just trying to get attention? It’s revealed at the end that they were both killers at a very young age, well before they would have had a blog or an Instagram account. The Internet didn’t make them murderers.
*. Does the movie fudge the romantic connection between Sadie and McKayla? Nothing of this nature is even suggested, but they are surely more than BFFs in their folie à deux. Boys are either dull or unnecessary, while they are, as they admit, meant for each other. But maybe they’re so into themselves that any deeper attachment is impossible. When they’re together it’s like looking in a mirror. You can’t even tell who is the instigator.
*. This is all too bad. Marvel teens Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp are capable of more than they’re asked to do here. Audiences found their shallowness and cruelty to be off-putting, but as I’ve said I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with the film’s insouciant amorality. The problem isn’t that I find the girls appalling, it’s that the movie doesn’t give me any reason to care about them.
*. There are a couple of good, if brief, kills. But there’s nothing spooky or suspenseful going on. Which leaves us with a comedy that isn’t funny, a horror movie that isn’t scary, and a satire with no real target. In all honesty, I have a hard time understanding what it is they were aiming for here. But whatever it was, I’m pretty sure they missed.