After making a decent impression with her unsettling segment in the horror anthology XX, Canadian filmmaker Jovanka Vuckovic takes a swing at directing a feature-length story with Riot Girls.
The town of Potter’s Bluff has been eaten alive by a flesh-eating disease. Adults have perished, leaving kids and teenagers to survive on their own. This creates a divide between the rich and the poor, and society starts resembling the politics of a high school. The underprivileged beggars fit the bill as punk rockers, while the powerful Titans are jock archetypes (letterman jacket and all). A little too on the nose, but it’s a stereotype the film has fun with. Slight tangent: I don’t know how they did it, but it appears the Titans conquered Degrassi High and turned it into their fortress. Maybe their leader (played by former Degrassi star Munro Chambers) knows a guy who knows a guy.
Screenwriter Katherine Collins (who has written episodes for Netflix’s Lost in Space reboot) approaches this sci-fi premise with limited information about the actual demise of Potter’s Bluff, but hopes to compensate with memorable characters and their edgy survival skills. The results are admirable, but not fully fleshed out. Even though the film is supposed to (literally) resemble the pages of a pulpy comic book, the characterization between the haves and have-nots is too simplistic and amounts to a bland dynamic between good and evil. It also doesn’t help that Collins mistakenly assumes that introductions are overrated, leaving animated titles to do most of the heavy lifting for backstories. Audiences need to be entertained, but they also need a little bit more than a flashy title card to go off on.
Jovanka Vuckovic turns in another adequate movie that captures the correct atmosphere while juggling an ensemble of solid performances, but she needs to stop downshifting her work to stay safe. I’m anticipating Vuckovic’s next project in hopes that it will exceed expectations and blow me away.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie