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Review: ‘Riot Girls’ takes the apocalypse on a wild ride, with teen punks vs. jocks

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Paloma Kwiatkowski, left, in the movie “Riot Girls.”
(Cranked Up)

Director Jovanka Vuckovic tackles her feature directorial debut with the ’80s-inspired, comic book-styled, teen punk apocalypse bop “Riot Girls,” written by Katherine Collins. Vuckovic made a splash with “The Box,” her segment of the female-directed anthology horror film “XX,” but “Riot Girls” is a different kind of genre flick. Taking its cues from teen classics like “Night of the Comet” and “Karate Kid,” “Riot Girls” is a splashy, bloody take on “Lord of the Flies” with a rock ’n’ roll spirit.

In this small town, it’s the jocks versus the punks, as all the adults have perished from a blackening gut rot. While the punks plunder the East Side, the jocks, known as the Titans, have set up shop across town at the high school, where they’ve instituted their own system of rules and control, consisting of detention, menacing pep rallies (complete with jock jams), checkpoints and torture.

Scrappy Scratch (Paloma Kwiatkowski) and pal Nat (“Annabelle Comes Home” scream queen Madison Iseman) are the daring East Siders who make the dangerous trip across town to rescue Nat’s brother, Jack (Alexandre Bourgeois), from the clutches of the Titans. It’s a simple hero’s journey, executed with surprisingly gory violence and excellent music cues. But despite its audacious premise and style, “Riot Girls” feels at times underwritten, a few of the performances under-baked. Kwiatkowski and Iseman carry the film, but such a sprawling world is heavy lifting. Nevertheless, Vuckovic ably showcases her fetchingly energetic aesthetic.

‘Riot Girls’
Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Playing: Vintage Los Feliz 3


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