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For all of the innovative work that we have seen in the horror genre over the last few years, it's still arguably a style of film drenched in cliche. With that in mind, I recently sat down with director Tyler MacIntyre and actress Alexandra Shipp to talk about how their new film, Tragedy Girls, avoids those potential pitfalls. The conversation inevitably turned to horror tropes that have become played out and no longer work, and Shipp explained that the image of a half-naked woman running, tripping, and getting murdered isn't sufficient anymore. The X-Men star explained:
I'm over really hot chicks dressed really revealingly getting murdered in the most sadistic ways. Like on their knees. It's a shock that I think people don't need. I don't need to see a woman with a spike through her head in a bra and panties. That's not fun for me. It scares me. It freaks me out. But at the same time, I get the appeal. But not only men are slasher fans, and if we could get a couple of naked men with a spike through their head, I think it would even things out a little bit. I think that those moments are overplayed. You don't have to be half-naked and running from something scary. Maybe it would be nice if they're half-naked and they beat up that scary shit.
If you have seen a horror movie in recent years, then you have probably seen some variation of that sequence. Even a film as inventive and well-received as It Follows opens with a girl inexplicably running from "It" while wearing high heels. In the face of such repetition, Alexandra Shipp seems to think that it's time for a change. It could be a scantily-clad male character (even Kevin Bacon has said we need to see more penises in movies) running from the killer, or it could be the woman turning to stand her ground and "beat up that scary shit," but the convention needs to be turned on its head.
It's easy to see how this trope has become played out. Even the original Scary Movie (which, and prepare to feel old, came out in 2000) was able to recognize it.
Warning: possible spoilers ahead for Tragedy Girls! You've been warned!
Following the explanation of Alexandra Shipp's gripe about half-naked women running away from killers and screaming, Tyler MacIntyre chimed in to explain that this was something that they specifically endeavored to avoid in Tragedy Girls. In fact, they even have fun with it in the film's opening scene by having Sadie (Deadpool actress Brianna Hildebrand) run and scream from knife-wielding serial killer Lowell (Kevin Durand) as a way to lure him into a trap. She's aware of the cliche, and she uses it to her advantage. MacIntyre said:
That's something that we play with, is that running and screaming has been done a lot. There's only really one scream in this movie and it's meant to manipulate somebody. You guys don't run from anybody or scream at all, and I think that can be kind of refreshing depending on what type of context the movie is coming from.
When viewed through that lens, it's hard not to think that Tragedy Girls is doing something very similar to the late Wes Craven's Scream with regards to how it skewers the slasher genre -- albeit in a very different, millennial way. There's a noticeable awareness of horror cliches in how MacIntyre constructed this film, and Tragedy Girls leans into it by willingly spoofing the Lovers Lane story that we have all come to recognize. Now it's just a matter of waiting to see whether or not other horror franchises will catch on and follow suit and put this cliche to rest.
Tragedy Girls is currently out in theaters, so make sure to check out the subversive take on the slasher genre for yourself! Looking beyond this latest entry in the horror world, be sure to take a look at CinemaBlend's 2017 movie premiere guide and 2018 movie premiere guide to see what else the next year has in store on the silver screen.