Imagine a post-apocalyptic Stand By Me where queer girls rule and save the day, and you have a vague idea of the aesthetic of the Canadian uber-indie thriller Riot Girls. The film is filled with up-and-coming female filmmakers, including director Jovanka Vuckovic, writer Katherine Collins, producer Lauren Grant, and a host of other below-the-line artists, including cinematographer Celiana Cardenas, production designer Jennifer Morden, and editor Maureen Grant. The sisters aren’t just doing it for themselves behind the scenes, Riot Girls is an escape thriller where, in an alternate 1995, all adults are dead from a mysterious illness, and the haves and the have-not teens are at war. So far, so bad boy-centric, right? Actually, no. Onscreen, great girls are all over this joint, doing it for themselves and everyone else, too. In that respect, it absolutely mirrors life in the here and now.
Lead characters Nat and Scratch are girlfriends in all the best senses of the word, and they are at the heart of the story, kicking jock ass and saving male members of their gang. At no point do the young men become the rescuers. They are relegated to secondary status, a welcome change to what we normally see in horror or dystopic plots. Queerness taking a back seat in Nat and Scratch’s doings, and making their romance just part of their arc is something many filmgoers crave but rarely get to see onscreen. Nat and Scratch’s love for each other doesn’t uniquely define them, it just is.