Greetings from Salem, beautiful ghouls! The Salem Horror Fest is in full swing (and has been since late September, though I was not lucky enough to make it to the whole thing). While I languished in Toronto (just kidding, Toronto, love you!), lucky horror fans in New England enjoyed special events and screenings including Night of the Living Dead, The Haunting, Gods & Monsters, Get Out, and an epic opening night party!
I arrived on October 6th, just in time to enjoy Mayor’s Night, a special evening in Salem where the children trick or treat in the downtown business area and a bustling night market offers spooky wares and amazing photo opportunities with characters including Frankenstein’s Monster, the Addams Family, and Mike Myers.
I immediately fell in love.
As a horror and Hallowe’en nerd, I am seriously considering winning a lottery and buying an October house in the quiet neighbourhood where my Airbnb is located. Perhaps this adorable home?
Since neither calories nor dollars really count while on vacation, I’ve been sampling the latte selection at Gulu-Gulu Cafe and The Red Line, and I couldn’t resist buying myself a new hat.
The bulk of the Salem Horror Fest festivities take place at CinemaSalem, a popular independent cinema that offers very reasonably-priced refreshments and decently comfortable seating. On Saturday night, I attended the Women With Guts evening, aptly named after Alison Lang’s new Rue Morgue produced collection which features essays about some of horror’s most inspiring (and, in some cases, overlooked) female artists, characters, and creators. (It’s a delightful, breezy, and often thought-provoking read and I highly recommend that you pick up your copy today.) The evening began with selected readings by members of FunDead Publications, a women-run publishing collective that regularly offers collections of scary stories and poetry, and continued with a stand-up performance by comic Kylie Alexander.
The first screening of the night was Tragedy Girls (2017), a deliciously sharp horror-comedy that takes aim at the narcissism of the social media generation. (I’ll talk about the second screening in a future post.) In a nutshell, the film centres on two young women, McKayla Hooper (played with an irresistible charisma by X-Men: Apocalypse‘s Alexandra Shipp) and Sadie Cunningham (Deadpool‘s Brianna Hildebrand). The deep and enduring friendship between the two girls, while saccharine-sweet on the surface, is based in something darker and more insidious than their parents or classmates could ever expect. Deep-seated sociopathy and an unquenchable thirst for internet infamy lead the duo to embark upon a bloody campaign intended to uplift their @tragedygirls Twitter account to dizzying heights of popularity. Like and follow, y’all!
The humour is infectious and the gore wonderfully wince-worthy, but the film’s true power lies in the bond between our two anti-hero protagonists. This is where the film excels — while both characters are deeply flawed and largely unsympathetic human beings, there is a magic to their connection, a fascinating allure whenever the two are on-screen together, a complexity that draws from their disparate economic backgrounds and the delicate balance of power that structures their BFF-ship.
The film feels very current, but in a more authentic way than many of the technology-heavy millennial-horror offerings of late. While it could easily have veered into cheesy or annoying, the visual touches that include showers of Periscope emojis and text message graphics instead come off as charming. This is a testament to the strength of the script and dialogue, which never feels clunky or inauthentic.
Tragedy Girls will be in theatres on October 20th. See it with your bestie! Like & follow @aoas_xx on Twitter and our new Insta! (Okay, I’m done!)