Director: Sam Levinson
Starring: Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Abra, Joel McHale, Bill Skarsgård
Words – Nathan Scatcherd
If you’re lucky, every once in a while you’ll come across a film which completely blindsides you. A film you’re maybe interested in, sure, but it nonetheless manages to reveal itself to be so much more than you’re expecting or even hoping for.
Somewhat dropped in the late November release space between the huge money-making tentpole movies and the Christmas-time family oriented fare, Assassination Nation is in danger of being missed out on entirely by a lot of people. Those people are very unfortunate.
This is utterly fearless, incendiary film-making and one of the best things I’ve seen all year; an uncompromising, genuine experience. It’s certain to divide people, which as ever, is no bad thing – it will certainly spark conversation and, at the very least, I can’t imagine anybody being ambivalent about it.
Its story concerns a group of young women who, in the wake of a hacking outbreak revealing the personal lives of everyone in their town of Salem, Massachusetts (an appropriate setting considering the film’s ‘witch hunt’ theme), decide to fight back not only against the increasingly unhinged violence and terror of their immediate surroundings, but ultimately against 21st century American society itself.
I don’t want to get too deeply into plot specifics, as I honestly feel this film deserves to be experienced with only a base amount of knowledge. What I will say is that it is an absolutely scathing, venomous day-glo nightmare taking vicious well-aimed swipes at social media, homophobia, transphobia, modern hypocrisy in the digital age and the patriarchal systems which uphold the denigration and abuse of women in particular.
It is at once an extremely dark comedy and a feminist horror movie with a shocking streak of ultra-violence.
When I say that I’m talking less about blood and offal and more about emotional violence; the ways human beings can be utterly disgusting to each other, wearing pleasant masks and living secret lives completely counter to their outward selves, in a way which has never been more widespread than it is now in the age of the smartphone.
Assassination Nation is a seething ‘fuck you’ to the ugliest facets of modern society, told through a hyper-kinetic ultra-modern lens, with central millennial characters who are allowed to be occasionally unlikeable and vapid and self-interested, but, in the end, painfully, recognisably human.
To briefly play the comparison game: it’s Spring Breakers meets The Purge meets your average Instagram feed, and the result is an electrifying, terrifying, ultimately empowering ride through Hell, offering – maybe – a glimpse at the other side… but only if the values currently held in Western society are fucking burned down.
This movie is a modern exploitation masterpiece, and watching it feels like getting away with something. I am, in the best possible way, astonished it exists.