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Film / Assassination Nation

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Assassination Nation is a 2018 exploitation thriller written and directed by Sam Levinson.

After the sleepy American town of Salem is rocked by a series of online hacks and leaks that ruin the lives of its subjects, free-thinking high schooler Lily Colson (Odessa Young) — herself one of the many victims — gets pinned with the blame.

It only goes downhill from there.

With only her friends Bex, Em, and Sarah (Hari Nef, Gabrielle "ABRA" Mirville, and Suki Waterhouse) by her side, it's up to Lily to fight off a horde of armed misogynists who want her dead. Also in the film are Bill Skarsgård as Lily's boyfriend Mark, Joel McHale as Lily's "daddy" Nick, and Bella Thorne as blue-haired cheerleader Reagan.


Assassination Nation contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Nance, Em and Sarah's mother, gets shot in the gut, is almost helpless to help her imperiled daughter, and is shot through the head before she can rally and rescue her.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • The adults are utterly powerless to stop the hacks until half the town has had their secrets exposed — at which point most of the adults graduate from useless to dangerous.
    • The only adult in the film shown to be both somewhat competent, and sympathetic to the plight of Lily and her friends is Nance, Em and Sarah's mom — and she gets killed soon after the rioters invade her home looking for the girls.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: As Grace is taken from school into police custody following her murder of Alpha Bitch Reagan, the entire student body, even Reagan’s fellow cheerleaders, applaud her, presumably due to the prior revelation that Reagan is the person who sent Grace’s nude pictures to the boys, despite being Grace’s supposed best friend.
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  • Apologetic Attacker: Diamond apologizes to Bex as he prepares to hang her in front of all his jock friends. He then backs out in the face of her pleas.
  • Ate His Gun: Mayor Bartlett kills himself this way at a town hall meeting, in what seems to be a distinct homage to the suicide of R. Budd Dwyer.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: The cop that responds to the girls' 911 call is in with the rioters. Emily and Sarah are "arrested," but taken alive. However, it's clear that they're being taken as hostages to lure out Lily and Bex, who've managed to escape the mob.
  • Batter Up!: How Grace kills Reagan, complete with the now-obligatory scene of walking down a hallway dragging the bat behind you.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Invoked, but subverted. While the last time we see them is when the main characters are standing before a mob of gun-wielding rioters, and it's unclear if they survive or not. However, in the last scene, Lily's father is yelling at her brother Donny, who turns out to be the hacker, that his sister was almost killed, which implies that she at least managed to survive.
  • Character Development: Bex probably has the most substantial arc among the four leads. Earlier in the film, Bex claims she has no sympathy for town Mayor Bartlett — a conservative, anti-LGBT politician — after he commits suicide, but when she's later given the choice to kill Johnny for his attempted murder of her, she declines and lets him go.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Lily's hardly above improvising weapons when her life is in danger.
    • After a creep comes after her with a knife, she runs into someone's backyard, then takes her assailant out with a garden shovel from around a corner.
    • Lily manages to survive Nick's attack on her by putting razor blades from Nick's old-style razor into a bar of soap and slashing his throat with it.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Subverted. When Johnny and one of his surviving henchmen hide behind a car, Em just shoots one of them right through it. They escaped before simply because the group shot above where they hid behind it.
  • Content Warnings: The film cheekily opens with a montage of every trigger warning-worthy aspect to come.
  • Crapsack World: The film's worldview isn't a very favorable one, and it quickly becomes clear that life in the town of Salem sucks, even before the leaks start making people go insane.
  • Devil's Advocate: Invoked. Lily's father describes her as such when she defends Principal Turrell over his accusations of child molestation during the leaks.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: After her (faceless) nudes are leaked, Lily’s boyfriend and his friend corner her and forcefully pull her shirt up to find the identifying birthmark shown in the nudes. This parallels the way that those accused of witch craft during the Salem witch trails were searched for “the Witches’ mark,” and given the way Lily and her friends as subjected to a Witch Hunt, this cannot be a coincidence.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Nance, the mother of Em and Sarah, is fatally shot by one of the home invaders, but not before killing two of them first.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Nick and other masked men capture local hacker Marty (the first person who discovered the leaks from the hacker Erostratus), who they proceed to torture via waterboarding into finding the source of the hacks. Marty relents and confesses that he noticed a lot of activity coming from Lily's IP address during the waves of leaks, which seemingly designates her as the mastermind. Before executing Marty, they record a video of his forced confession.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Early in the film, Lily is called into Principal Turrell's office for drawing sexually graphic nudes in her sketchbook in school. By way of explanation, Lily deconstructs the idea that her drawings are pornographic by attacking the idea that any depiction of female sexuality should be considered pornographic. It's clear Turrell sees the talent in her art, so he lets her off with a warning to not do it in school.
  • Female Misogynist: Some of the rioters are clearly women.
  • For the Evulz: The motive of the hacker, revealed to be Lily's younger brother Donny in the final scene. When asked by the police why he did what he did, he simply responds "for the lulz".
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Regarding the identity of "Erostratus," the hacker and instigator of the events of the film. While Lily is kicked out of her family's home after her secret relationship with Nick is exposed, her younger brother Donny witnesses the scene, seeming very unaffected by it. It later turns out that he's the hacker, making his non-reaction more pointed.
    • An earlier example would be when the mass of personal data is released, one of the few excluded from the leak is Lily and it's also revealed later on that the source of the hacking traces back to her IP address, giving credence to the growing sentiment that she is the hacker. It all makes sense when the hacker is revealed to be her brother, as he likely withheld her information to prevent anyone from figuring out that he's the mastermind. Unfortunately, it resulted in his eventual discovery anyway.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Most of the rioters hunting Lily for allegedly causing the chaos are angry men who believe Lily is a whore who deserves to die for what she supposedly did.
  • Hidden Depths: Nance is shown to be kind of a floozy drunk for most of the film, but that briskly changes when she successfully guns down two of the home invaders that are hunting Lily.
  • Hypocrite: In her "The Reason You Suck" Speech, Lily accuses the whole town of this, since forming a lynch mob is essentially trying to solve one (perceived) injustice with an absolute disregard for any sort of justice.
  • Karma Houdini: Mark essentially gets no repercussions for exposing Lily's relationship with Nick and destroying their respective home lives.
  • May–December Romance: Discussed and deconstructed. Lily was having a (non-sexual) affair with Nick, the father of a child she babysat, mostly consisting of her sending him suggestive pictures, and texting back and forth. When she seeks refuge in his home after the rioting begins, he seems supportive at first, but ultimately outs himself as a violent, sexually-aggressive psychopath — with two dead bodies in his bathtub.
  • The New Rock & Roll: The internet, as far as anyone in the movie over 20 is concerned.
  • No Sympathy: Despite being trans, Bex has no sympathy for Mayor Bartlett being outed by photos of him cross-dressing and partying with male escorts, even after he kills himself on stage. Understandably, considering that Bartlett was a politician who was anti-LGBT during his time as mayor, and it's discussed by her with the other four girls.
  • Pedo Hunt: After the school principal is revealed to have nude photos of his daughter from when she was a child on his phone, he immediately gets accused of molesting her. We never find out if he's guilty, or this was ill-advised but not a sign he abused her (however by modern American laws this still might be considered child porn). In any case, he defended himself gracefully and refuses to resign even when faced with an angry crowd.
  • Perky Goth: Reagan is a blue-haired girl who is usually seen in dark colors. She's also The Cheerleader and an Alpha Bitch.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Mayor Bartlett's public suicide after the first wave of leaks opens the floodgates for the rest of the film to happen.
    • However, the stakes are raised significantly when the first murder occurs: Grace kills her friend, cheerleader Reagan, for spreading nude pictures of her to her male friends.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Lily gives one of these to the whole town at the end.
    Lily: My name is Lily Colson. I’m eighteen-years-old, and I don’t know if me and my friends are going to live through the night. This entire fucking town wants to kill us. And they may say that it’s because they thought I was behind it, or that I’m a whore, I’m immoral, I’m a homewrecker, I deserve it, I have it coming. Well, guess what? I didn’t hack anybody’s shit. I didn’t do it, and I don’t know who did. As for being a whore, a homewrecker, immoral? Sure. It doesn’t hold a fucking candle to your righteousness. That’s the real sickness here, your righteousness and hypocrisy. It’s the simple fact that you can’t live by the rules you set, yet you still pretend. This is your world. You built this. If it’s too strict, tear it the fuck down. But don’t look at me. Don’t take your hate out on me, I just got here. And I have no clue where to go, because, from the moment I arrived, all I was ever given were orders. “Smile. Open up. Cross your legs. Spread your pussy. Speak softer. Scream louder. Be quiet. Be confident. Be interesting. Don’t be so difficult. Be strong. Be an angel. Be a whore. Be a princess. Be anything you want to be. Even the President of the United States of America. Just kidding." Fuck you. You still want to kill me? Rape me? Stab me? Shoot me? Let’s go. Rally your fucking crew. Grab your guns and hide behind your masks. You want to do this in real life now? Give it your best shot. Because you’ve prepared me my whole life for this. You may kill me, but you can’t kill us all.
  • Salem Is Witch Country: Played with, but still explicitly invoked. None of the girls ever claim to be or have been called witches, but it plays out much the same anyway. What makes it more on the nose is that the town where the events of the movie take place is in fact called Salem.
  • Slut-Shaming: Despite being one of the hacker's victims, Lily is quickly blamed for the hacks, primarily over taking sexy selfie pictures that she sent out.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Lily's younger brother Donny, who only appears in a few scenes, is the hacker and instigator of everything that happens.
  • Suburban Gothic: A suburban town's dark secrets are exposed, leading to a violent witch hunt.
  • Trans Equals Gay: After he finds out Bex had sex with Diamond, Johnny intimidates Diamond into thinking he'll be seen as gay by others, which leads to their attempted hanging of her later.
  • Uncertain Doom: The fates of Lily, Em, Sarah, and Bex are unknown, as they're last seen in a Bolivian Army Ending with the rioters. Lily's dad later reveals she had survived, but not what became of the rest.


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