Posted Nov 21 2018

Assassination Nation - This Wild Genre- Twisting Movie Rocks

Dir: Sam Levinson

Starring Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Abra, Bill Skarsgard, Joel McHale, Bella Thorne

A run down at the beginning of Assassination Nation promises such things as “Rape”, “Murder,” “Violence”, “Gore”, “Fragile Male Ego”, and whilst those are all on offer here, Levinson’s film is so much more. Part pitch black comedy, part blood-soaked horror movie, part rape revenge exploitation movie, all achingly relevant satire, the movie may be uneven in places, but it is undeniably powerful.

Lily (an impressive Young) and her three best friends (one of whom is trans) make their way through high school in Salem (a town not casually chosen, witch hunts and all) negotiating the waves of partying and social media that dominate their lives. Until someone hacks the Mayor who promptly commits suicide in front of the assembled townsfolk. And then someone hacks the school principle who is then branded a paedophile. And then someone hacks Lily – who has been sending naked selfies to the man she used to babysit for – and then things really start to get out of hand.

The early part of (son of Barry) Levinson’s movie spends a good deal of time playing with form, from multiple split screens, to prowling camerawork to one character announcing the next song on the soundtrack. It’s ambitious, some times playful, and works fairly well, if not completely.

As things degenerate and we jump “One Week Later” the movie vastly improves as Salem drastically falls all to shit. Out-Purging The Purge, and with 17,000 people now hacked,  the movie shifts tone and the director seems to gain in confidence, and audacity. As the locals wander the streets all wearing masks to prevent being identified on camera & online, baying for blood, the blame is shifted onto Lily - cue fake news and trial by media allusions - and soon we’re deeply embroiled in a nerve-jangling home invasion horror movie, with Levinson’s increasingly inventive use of the camera building up the tension admirably.

Until the guns show up and we shift into an avenging angel rape revenge exploitation piece of sleaze.

So, there’s a lot going on in Assassination Nation, a film that seeks to redefine “in your face” by bludgeoning us with a sledgehammer. But a lot of it works, and its best moments work tremendously well. It wears its influences, from Heathers to Spring Breakers and more on its sleeve at times, and sometimes swings wide, but when it hits (and much of it hits) it hits hard. It may not be the best film of the year, but it may well be the most talked about. And very possibly the most relevant.



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