The Movie Waffler First Look Review - RIOT GIRLS | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - RIOT GIRLS

riot girls review
Two tribes of teenagers battle in a world where adults have been wiped out by a plague.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Jovanka Vuckovic

Starring: Madison Iseman, Jenny Raven, Paloma Kwiatkowski, Jake Sim, Munro Chambers

riot girls poster

When it comes to summarising the narrative context of Riot Girls, there’s no beating the witty and concise method of elucidation employed by the film itself: in bright animation reminiscent of 1960s Marvel comics (think the bold definitions of Steranko rather than the soft edges of Kirby), the film exposits how every adult in the world has gone and died of a strange illness over the last year, leaving the kids to make sense of this brave new world (an irresistible premise similarly utilised across YA literature such as Charlie Higson’s Enemy and Michael Grant’s Gone series).

riot girls review

Kids they may be (and, in the main, we’re talking the business end of childhood here, no babies etc, thank heavens) but they’re still people after all, and as such they have delineated their small town into strict residential zones based upon cultural backgrounds and pre-plague social standing. The west side is dominated by the sort of kids who expect you to be impressed by their clothing labels and their apparent ability to throw/kick about a ball: the jocks (they all wear those sport jerseys with big capital letters on them which, in teen films, are always a helpful shorthand of the wearer being a bit of a prick). And the east side is given over to the sort of kids you and I probably were in school: interesting, cool outsiders whom the jocks neither understand or tolerate, and as such are behoved to adapt their daily in order to avoid the varsity clad bullies.

riot girls review
Two such Eastsiders are Nat (Madison Iseman - blonde and sweet) and Scratch (Paloma Kwiatkowski - punk AF), who we pick up with post-animation during a supply run. It’s rich pickings as the two happen upon the desiccated corpses of a couple of adults who decided to eat a bullet rather than succumb to the mysterious plague. This means there is a gun, which Scratch literally prises from the cold dead hands of the dead fella holding it. Presumably our girls are raiding the house of Mr and Mrs Chekov, though, because this particular firearm will come into crucial play as the film progresses, with fatal conflict arising when the jocks kidnap one of Nat and Scratch’s grungey gang (the film is set in an alternative '90s)…

riot girls review
Directing from a screenplay by Katherine Collins (a veteran of television writing, a training ground which always engenders tightly organised scripting, and who is clearly writing from a more personal perspective here: I had to smile when I did my imdb research and clocked how much Collins looks like an adult version of Kwiatkowski), Jovanka Vuckovic keeps the action snappy and the tone poppy, with the West Side Story meets The Hunger Games dynamic allowing for much sub-genre shindiggery. This is Vuckovic’s debut feature, but she has been integral to the horror community for time: she was EIC of Rue Morgue magazine for a long spell and has made several shorts preceding Riot Girls (please seek out The Captured Bird - it is gorgeous), following her start as an award winning visual artist. As such, Riot Girls is steeped in the sort of playful referencing and deep cut nods that only a true aficionado could administer (a favourite was the pitch perfect '80s power balladry which accompanies the Eastsiders; ♫ Danger in the air! ♫). Within this shifting genre framework, Riot Girls explores such themes as social responsibility, learned entitlement and loyalty.

Like the provocative '90s musical movement from which the film takes its name, Riot Girls is an eclectic prospect and quite possibly won’t be everyone’s can of OK Soda, but for any Westsiders reading, Nat and Scratch are going to be the rebel girl queens of your world.

Riot Girls is in North American cinemas from September 13th. A UK release has yet to be announced.

2019 movie reviews