Interview: Taking A Stab At Tragedy Girls With Star Alexandra Shipp

The current horror film festival circuit has all been abuzz about this revolutionary dark comedy horror film, Tragedy Girls since 'brilliantly turning the slasher genre on its head' at South By Southwest earlier this year. It picks up where Heathers (1988) come Jennifer's Body (2009) left off and orbits into our digital universe with an intelligence and ambition fueled by the film's two leads, Brianna Hildebrand (Sadie) and Alexandra Shipp (McKayla). Entrenched in a world addicted to small bright, portable screens, besties Sadie and McKayla want in on the millions gone wireless; getting their attention to #TragedyGirls with their "like and favorite" motto while the duo's small town is plagued by a series of brutal murders. Sadie and McKayla are on the prowl to carry the torch of sensationalizing violence for fame. By any means necessary. What enriches this story is the performances. And Shipp as McKayla creates one of the most memorable characters welcomed into the horror canon. I got a chance to briefly talk to Shipp about the process of bringing McKayla to life and its collaborative effort along with the woes of social media and just why Tragedy Girls is striking a chord with audiences.

"What was really fun about working with Brianna was that we both really wanted to do a really good job on this," Shipp discusses. "We came together and we read the script before we left to film the movie. It was one of the smarter things to do because we were able to come up with little pitter patter back and forth, and then we sat down with Tyler [MacIntyre, the director] and we just went over all of the intricacies and we talked about what they did beforehand because, we kinda come into the game right in the middle of it when they're really starting to kick off their plan. And so we talked what they went through, who they were as friends and how their lives had been effected by all of the craziness that they had been planning or going through and really kinda dug in deep with that."

Shipp was open about the magic of filming and how the preliminary meetings really paid off. Especially in regards to the working relationship she developed with Hildebrand. "Brianna's so brilliant and just so sweet and so funny and we lived together as well while we were doing the movie. And so it was good to be able to create something that was so fun and hysterical and gory and scary."

A great film such as Tragedy Girls is not with a great conflict that stretches societal issues we collectively grapple with on a daily basis. Sadie and McKayla have their ups and downs, much of it reflecting on the nature of how many women choose to resist the notion that we cannot genuinely support one another and develop lasting friendships based on shared interests, encouragement, and respect. Not competition. Shipp digs at the complicated nature of this and how the film successfully flips predictable expectations. "It's actually pretty crazy how much we're ingrained to think that you have to fight each other as women. I think that with Sadie and McKayla even though they do have that rift, even though there is that bit of jealousy there, there's a sense of love that they have for each other. And I think that it's a sense of love that we as individuals could really kinda learn from. We're not each other's competition, even though we're told that we have to fight each other."

That fight falls right in line with the trap of comparison hoisted by social media. Tragedy Girls really puts in the work to cleverly expose its darker aspects. With a brand or a simple hashtag, you can capture the attention of the universe it seems. How far are some of us willing to go for that kind of exposure? Shipp briefed on the good and bad of social media and the ways in which she's decided to approach it to better herself, and not use it as a well of personal affirmation. "This is a source of pain and anger for me when it comes to social media. These ideas that we're good enough if we have likes, we're good enough if we have shares, and retweets and all that bullshit. And it's so not true and it's so not real. With that being said, I love social media as well because it's a way to connect with people, and I think that used in the right facet, it can be something that's really helpful."

With all of these dynamics combined, it's no wonder Tragedy Girls is such a hit with audiences. Word of mouth and great visual marketing strategies has put the film on many people's radar and Shipp has taken notice; "The feedback I've been getting has all been positive from the people who've seen the movie to the people who've only seen posters and the preview. It's great to see that people are able to take a joke [laughs]."

Lastly, Shipp leaves us with a statement that cements the fact that horror continues to push for the multi-faceted, evolving woman lead(s); "It's awesome to see that more and more movies are being made with female leads that don't have them objected or overly sexualized. We don't really play into that. It's nice to be able to be breaking down those barriers and yet still giving the fans of horror and gore what they want most."

Tragedy Girls is now streaming on Hulu.

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