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Teenagers kill for likes in ‘Tragedy Girls’

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The Tragedy Girls tweet about their latest murder.
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Two and a half stars

Tragedy Girls Brianna Hildebrand, Alexandra Shipp, Jack Quaid. Directed by Tyler MacIntyre. Rated R. Opens Friday at Village Square.

The horrors of social media have been fodder for some clever, dark movies recently, including Unfriended and Ingrid Goes West, and Tyler MacIntyre’s Tragedy Girls falls somewhere between those and the more mundane, tiresome horrors of Friend Request. At its best, Tragedy Girls is a smart, cynical high school satire in the vein of Heathers, but at its worst it’s merely cynical, a formulaic and calculated effort to capitalize on social-media buzzwords. Either way, it’s carried by two great lead performances from Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp as the title characters, teenage sociopaths who hide their violent tendencies beneath the veneer of high school superficiality.

Sadie (Hildebrand) and McKayla (Shipp) run the multi-pronged online brand Tragedy Girls, and when their reports on a local serial killer don’t get enough clicks and likes, they decide to take over the killing spree themselves. There’s a gleeful nastiness to the way the girls plan and execute the murders while simultaneously bemoaning the lack of police response, but the violence eventually gets repetitive, and MacIntyre and co-writer Chris Lee Hill have trouble escalating the stakes without losing their protagonists’ perverse likability. The movie’s nonstop pop-culture references can be as smug and empty as the characters spouting them, and unlike Ingrid or Unfriended, Tragedy Girls never quite gets below the surface of online narcissism, as much as it strains for relevance.

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