Everything You Need to Know about Assasination Nation. As the bloody high school flick arrives in theaters, we made some interesting notes about the film. Get to know the facts before you watch the film’s most provocative admission.
Assassination Nation feels like the product of a collaboration between Spring Breakers and The Purge. This is pure genre exploitation – a gleefully gory revenge flick that leaves its small-town streets awash with blood. Under the assured guidance of Sam Levinson, Assassination Nation rises on the talents of its cast and the frequent bursts of inspired gore and timely commentary. Although redolent of a range of classic femme and queer-centric exploitation movies such as Heathers, early Gregg Araki movies and Japanese sukeban films from the 1970s and ’80s that featured avenging schoolgirls, the key role played here by social media, identity hacking and resurgent “witch hunt” hysteria makes this feel very 2018.
Based on an original screenplay by Levinson, Assassination Nation centers on 18-year-old Lily and her peers living in the suburban town of Salem. Their lives revolve around partying, sex, and social media, until an anonymous hacker begins dumping Salemites’ phone and computer data on 4chan. At first, the hacker targets authority figures like the mayor, whose family values platform masks a hidden life of cross-dressing and Craigslist hookups. But then, half the town’s secrets are exposed, including a relationship between Lily and an older neighbor. Things get even worse when a fellow student accuses Lily of being the hacker, and a violent mob comes after all four girls. Fortunately, they’re far from helpless and slowly turn the tables on their persecutors.
There’s a confidence in Assassination Nation that keeps you mesmerised. It’s a provocative film for provocative times, but one that ultimately serves more as a balm than a button-pushing irrelevance. There’s some truly gorgeous cinematography, images that really stick in your mind – stay through the credits for an absolute treat – and enough self-reflection to never feel lewd.
As the bloody high school flick arrives in the UK cinemas, we made some interesting notes about the film. If you don’t know it by now, get to know the four Assassination Nation facts before you watch the film’s most provocative admission.
Assassination Nation warns viewers upfront that it isn’t a feel-good movie
It opens with a “trigger warning” that the movie contains themes of bullying, abuse, classism, death, drinking, drug use, social content, toxic masculinity, homophobia, transphobia, guns, nationalism, racism, kidnapping, the male gaze, sexism—and last but not least—giant frogs. The movie is a molotov cocktail of all that is wrong with America in 2018, and it’s pretty hard to swallow.
In addition to the film’s unapologetic exhibition of violence, the leads are also the focal points for the trigger-warned “male gaze,” as further emphasized with the butt-cheek and midriff-baring costume design by Rachel Dainer-Best. The costume designer, along with the production team, took the majority of inspiration and references from Japanese Sukeban (“suke” = female and “bancho” = boss) exploitation flicks and, fittingly, young women on Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat. But Dainer-Best looks to famous influencers, as she didn’t want the audience to make obvious associations to well-known personalities or aesthetics.
In this fictional every-town version of Salem, the accused teens are the focus of mass hysteria are led by Lily (Odessa Young), who’s having a secret sext-y flirtation with a married neighbor dad (Joel McHale). Until, at least, the town is turned upside-down by something eerily akin to the 4chan celebrity nude photos leaks. Lily and her friends then become a feminist death squad comprised of Bex (Transparent actress and Gucci goddess Hari Nef), Em (Awful Records singer/producer Abra), and Sarah (English model-turned-actress Suki Waterhouse.)
Assassination Nation was hardly Odessa’s first time in a taxing role. She’s played a teen with bipolar disorder in the web series High Life, and recently appeared in Jamie M. Dagg’s triple-murder thriller, Sweet Virginia.
Assassination Nation officially had the worst debut of the year at the box office last September
According to THR, the black comedy earned $1 million after being distributed to 1,043 theaters, averaging just $733 per screen. The rights for the Sam Levinson–directed film were bought in January by specialty distributor Neon and the Russo brothers for $10 million after it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
The film’s distributor has even had trouble advertising on social media—Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube says trailers for the film violate their community standards. Here’s hoping Assassination Nation and its accompanying iced films find new life on Netflix eventually.
Assassination Nation hits UK theaters on November 23