Assassination Nation review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Assassination Nation touches on something deeply disturbing of online mentality. There’s a focus on how the dependency of the flow of information breeds a sense of false security and mob mentality, where a revealing flood of concealed truth can turn monstrous and inhuman without a hair of scrutiny until it’s too late. I want to emphasize that the film merely touches upon this aspect and never digs deep, merely scraping the surface of the concrete to extract some horror thrills out of the online mob premise.
The town of Salem is currently rocked with controversy. One curious hacker happens upon a plethora of leaked information about Mayor Bartlett. The mayor has apparently been very much against homosexuality but had a series of sexual photos unearthed of him in very homosexual acts. This sends the town into a heated stir and the mayor into a tailspin of regret where he takes the only way out he can fathom; a bullet to the brain in front of an audience to witness his sacrifice.
Taking a strange comfort in finding out this information is a collective of outsider high school teenagers. Lily Colson (Odessa Young) hangs out with her friends at school doing more lounging than school work, taking an interest in all the juicy town gossip and revealing hacks. Their response is as natural as the rest of the town, believing Barlett got what he deserved for being a perverted hypocrite. This goes double for Lily’s transgender friend Bex (Hari Nef).
But then more hacks come out. More sexual secrets that create an unease of controversy throughout Salem, where the bitter and repressed explode on those exposed. Pedophiles become targets where their houses and vandalized. Teenagers with sexual affairs will be harassed and assaulted. The public will demand those found to be morally objectionable, be they hypocrites, pedophiles, or sluts, will be shamed in public, forcing them out of society. And when all of society forces you into a corner, you start to get violent.
I’ve heard the film compared to a pairing of Mean Girls meets The Purge, where all the mob mentality of the internet reveals leads to chaos about the town of murder as a means of cleansing. And there’s a lot to say with such a premise. It’s just unfortunate that the film seems more about bathing in the bluntness of its exploitation premise. There’s a moment right before the carnage of the girls being targeted brutally as scapegoats that the ensemble idolizes female revenge films, hoping they can make some when they grow up. Now they’re living one with all the viciousness and violence that comes with such a film.
Assassination Nation is more interesting for the questions, even if they’re mostly through blood-soaked whispers as it embraces more of the terror than the commentary. It becomes so lost in the muck of its action and horror aspects that the message comes slamming into the last few minutes of a big middle finger to a society that judges when all contain some guilt. But, hey, it’s a needed middle finger that’s worth holding up with all the profanity, the fingernail covered in blood.