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TIFF 2018: Assassination Nation Takes On Trigger Warnings, Trolls, And ‘Doing It For Lulz’

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Who’s Behind It

Writer/director Sam Levinson, the guy who penned the Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer-starring TV movie The Wizard of Lies, about Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme downfall.

Assassination Nation is Levinson’s second feature film as a director. It premiered at Sundance last winter.

Who’s In It

The movie stars Aussie actor Odessa Young, New York Fashion Week street star Hari Nef, model-turned-actor Suki Waterhouse and singer Abra, along with Bill Skarsgård, a baseball bat-wielding Maude Apatow, Joel McHale, and Bella Thorne.

Who’ll Love It

Exploitation film fans, intersectional feminists, left wing anarchists, street justice vigilantes, and anyone who loves The Purge franchise (hi!), Mean Girls, or Easy A (but with bullets). Also, if last year’s TIFF selection, Revenge, from French director Coralie Fargeat spoke to you, you’ll love the slippery fake-blood-drenched bathroom brawl in this movie, too.

What It’s About

It’s 2018 in Salem, Massachusetts and instead of being burned at the stake, the suburb’s young “witches” (read: immodest, less-than-virginal young women with opinions that don’t line up with those of the town’s authority figures—parents, cops, jocks) are being doxed online and then accused of being the doxers. We all know the kind of uproar images of the naked female body cause (see: no nipples on Instagram unless you’re dude) so when half the town is hacked and everyone’s naked selfies go viral, who better to act out a righteous morality play on than the women who’ve dared to shamelessly reveal a thigh, bum, or breast?

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Why You Should See It

Are you the parent of a teenager? Stop reading this right now and go back to monitoring your child’s social media accounts. Assassination Nation is too scary for you. Then again, it may give members of an older, less-woke generation a better understanding of what it’s like to be a teenage girl in a country where women’s bodies are more heavily policed and regulated than firearms; where hemlines and bra straps are considered a bigger problem than school shootings. This is an exploitation film fuelled by misdirected Middle America rage, justifiable teen angst… and glitter. Like its Purge predecessors, it attempts to comment on the current political landscape in the U.S., and like those movies it does so only in half-measures.

To be fair, the status of women in Trump’s America is no light subject matter. There are a couple of big wins, however: Levinson casts a trans actor (Nef) to play a trans character (can we get a hallelujah?), and the plot deftly manages to call into question the logic behind blaming the victims of doxxing for the crime instead of the perpetrators. Also, the closing credits features a pretty kickass drumline cover of Miley Cyrus’ ‘We Can’t Stop.’

When You Can See It

Catch Assassination Nationpart of TIFF’s Midnight Madness programme, on Tuesday, September 11 at 10:45 p.m. at the Ryerson Theatre or on Wednesday, September 12 at 9:45 p.m. at Scotiabank Theatre. Check out the trailer below.