Assassination Nation

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Assassination Nation
Assassination Nation poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySam Levinson
Produced by
Written bySam Levinson
Music byIan Hultquist
CinematographyMarcell Rév
Edited byRon Patane
Distributed by
Release date
  • January 21, 2018 (2018-01-21) (Sundance)
  • September 21, 2018 (2018-09-21) (United States)
Running time
108 minutes[4]
CountryUnited States
Budget$7 million[5]
Box office$2.9 million[6]

Assassination Nation is a 2018 American black comedy thriller film[7][8][9] written and directed by Sam Levinson. It stars an ensemble cast led by Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef and Abra. The film takes place in the fictional town of Salem,[10][11] which devolves into chaos and violence after a computer hacker discovers and leaks personal secrets about many of its residents.

Development of the film began in October 2016, when it was announced as the independent label Foxtail Entertainment's first project. Casting announcements were made throughout 2017 and principal photography commenced in March 2017 and took place in New Orleans. Months later, Neon acquired the film rights with the Russo Brothers's AGBO.

The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2018, and was theatrically released in the United States on September 21, 2018, by Neon and AGBO in association with Refinery29. It has grossed $2.9 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, who praised its "frenetic and visually stylish" action but criticized the thinly-written characters.[12]


The film opens with a montage of trigger warnings that show brief scenes depicting topics including bullying, blood, abuse, classism, death, drinking, drug use, sexual content, toxic masculinity, homophobia, transphobia, guns, nationalism, racism, kidnapping, murder, attempted murder, the male gaze, sexism, swearing, torture, violence, gore, weapons, and fragile male egos.

In the town of Salem, Lily Colson is a high school senior who regularly hangs out with her three best friends, Bex Warren and sisters Em and Sarah Lacey. The girls go to a party where Bex hooks up with her crush Diamond, while Lily hangs with her boyfriend Mark while simultaneously texting someone named "Daddy" behind his back. After sex, Diamond tells Bex to keep their hookup a secret, as Bex is transgender.

Marty, a casual hacker, receives a message from an unknown hacker about Mayor Bartlett, a known anti-gay candidate. He reveals pictures of Bartlett engaging with male escorts and dressing up in women's clothing, which Marty forwards to the entire town. During the press conference in which he's supposed to address the facts, Bartlett publicly commits suicide. Principal Turrell, Lily's kindhearted and heart-warming school principal, is the next to be hacked, with pictures of his 6-year-old daughter in the bath making people view him as a pedophile. During the meeting with angry parents, he refuses to resign, intending to set things right for all his students.

As the police question Marty about the hacks, a massive data dump of half the people in Salem is posted. Lily's classmate Grace discovers that her best friend Reagan has sent nude pictures of her to her boyfriends, and bashes in Reagan's skull with a baseball bat during her cheerleading practice. "Daddy" is revealed to be Em and Sarah's neighbor Nick Mathers, who Lily used to babysit for. Lily's lewd pictures and videos that she sent to Nick are made public when his information is leaked. As a result, she is exposed and humiliated by Mark, and then disowned by her family. As she walks down her street, shunned, homeless, and miserable, she is harassed by a man in a truck who films and harasses her, before chasing her with a knife. She manages to incapacitate him with a shovel and make a hasty retreat to Em and Sarah's house.

A week later, most of the town have donned masks and taken up arms to get revenge on those they think have wronged them. A masked Nick and other men capture Marty, who they torture into admitting that the source of the hacks came from Lily's IP address. Before executing Marty, they upload a video of his forced confession. The masked assailants track Lily to Em and Sarah's house, where all four girls are staying, break in, and kidnap Em and Sarah. Their mother, Nance, intervenes, trying to keep the marauders at bay, but she is shot and killed. Em and Sarah are put into the back of a police car. Bex successfully kills one of the attackers with a nail gun and escapes, while Lily hides in Nick's house. Nick at first pretends to help her but then reveals a knife in his hand, intending to execute her for exposing the town of their secrets, but not before revealing that her friends will share the same fate with her and Marty.

Lily fights Nick off and slits his throat with a makeshift weapon. Downstairs she discovers a large cache of weapons, which she uses to ambush and shoot the police officer holding Em and Sarah hostage and free her friends. Meanwhile, after escaping the Lacey residence, Bex attempts to look for help only to be ignored by the residents of the town. She is kidnapped by Diamond's friend Johnny, who tries to force Diamond to publicly hang her in retribution for Diamond's humiliation, but Bex successfully convinces him to spare her, buying enough time for Lily, Em, and Sarah to arrive, rescuing Bex and executing her assailants. Johnny surrenders and Diamond joins the girls soon after. Lily makes a video exonerating herself and urging everyone in Salem to stand up and fight back against their tormentors, and a great battle commences.

Meanwhile, Lily's younger brother Donny is arrested for the hacks, facing a life sentence for cyberterrorism, murder, and invasion of privacy. When asked why he did it by his parents, Donny shrugs and says that it was "for the LOLs." The next morning, the Salem High marching band performs Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop" down a street littered with dead bodies and destroyed vehicles.




In October 2016, Matthew Malek and Anita Gou launched the independent label Foxtail Entertainment. The duo announced the film as their first project. David S. Goyer and Kevin Turen joined them to produce the film.[13] It is also produced by Bron Studios and Phantom Four, in association with Creative Wealth Media.[14]

After the premiere at Sundance Film Festival, Neon acquired the film rights. AGBO signed a deal with 30West, a company who acquired a majority stake in Neon, to co-distribute the film with Neon.[2] In July 2018, Refinery29 also signed with Neon to co-distribute the film with them and AGBO.[3]


In December 2016, Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef and Abra joined the main cast of the film.[15]

In March 2017, Bella Thorne, Maude Apatow, Bill Skarsgård, Joel McHale, Colman Domingo and Noah Galvin joined the cast.[16][17][18] In April 2017, Anika Noni Rose joined the cast for the role of Nance, an attractive woman with terrible taste in men, who has an unfortunate reputation in the conservative town of Salem.[19]


Principal photography began in March 2017 in New Orleans. The sequence where the girls are attacked in Nance's home was shot in a single take using a crane.[20]



The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2018.[21][22] It was released in the United States on September 21, 2018 by Neon and AGBO in association with Refinery29.

Home media[edit]

Assassination Nation was released digitally and on Blu-ray and DVD on December 18, 2018 by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.[23]


Box office[edit]

As of December 30, 2018, Assassination Nation has grossed $2 million in the United States and $847,617 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $2.9 million.[6]

In the United States, Assassination Nation was released alongside The House with a Clock in Its Walls, Life Itself and Fahrenheit 11/9, and did poorly in theaters. The film was projected to gross around $4 million in its opening weekend from 1,403 theaters.[24] However it ended up debuting to just $1 million, finishing 15th at the box office.[25] Internationally, the film was released in only five countries as a limited theatrical release.[26]

Neon's chief Tom Quinn acknowledged the film's unsatisfactory box office performance, saying "Sam Levinson has created a bold, visionary and ultimately cathartic response to the dumpster fire that is 2018. We're admittedly disappointed more people didn't come out this weekend, but those that did were loud and overwhelmingly positive. It's going to take more time for Assassination Nation to find its audience".[27] Prior to the film release, analyst Jeff Bock compared the film to Heathers, saying "There's people out there who like these Heathers-type of films, but they tend to be more popular on home entertainment platforms" and "They're more likely to be cult favorites than big box office hits".[28]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 73% based on 129 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.63/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Assassination Nation juggles exploitation and socially aware elements with mixed results, but genre fans may find it too stylish and viscerally energetic to ignore."[29]

On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 56 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[30] Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film a 60% positive score and a 39% "definite recommend".[25]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Toronto International Film Festival September 16, 2018 People's Choice Award: Midnight Madness, Second Runner Up Assassination Nation Won [31]
Sitges Film Festival October 14, 2018 Best Picture Nominated
Utopiales Film Festival November 5, 2018 Prix Utopia Won [32]
Film Threat - Award This! February 25, 2019 Indie Cinematographer Marcell Rév Won [33]
Biggest Oscar Snub Nominated
Best Director Sam Levinson Nominated


  1. ^ "List of productions companies". IMDb. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Fleming Jr, Mike (January 23, 2018). "Huge Deal! NEON Teams With Russo Bros-Led AGBO In $10M+ Deal For 'Assassination Nation'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Evans, Greg (July 31, 2018). "Refinery29 Partners With NEON For Feature Film Expansion; 'Assassination Nation', 'Little Woods' First Titles". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  4. ^ "Assassination Nation (2018)". IMDb.
  5. ^ Scott, Mike (March 16, 2017). "Who's filming in New Orleans? Kristen Stewart, Jim Caviezel and more". Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Assassination Nation (2018)". The Numbers. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  7. ^ Karounos, Patricia (September 20, 2018). "Assassination Nation Will Make You Rethink Your Relationship with the Internet". Elle Canada. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  8. ^ Hermanns, Grant (January 8, 2019). "Assassination Nation's Suki Waterhouse Signs On For Misbehaviour". Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  9. ^ Casale, Maddy (April 29, 2020). "Woman Crush Wednesday: Maude Apatow is Taking Over 'Hollywood'". Decider. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  10. ^ DeMara, Bruce (September 20, 2018). "Assassination Nation is bloody, funny and thought-provoking". Toronto Star. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  11. ^ Cuffari, Steven (June 13, 2020). "How Assassination Nation Modernized The Salem Witch Trials". Screen Rant. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  12. ^ Giles, Jeff (September 20, 2018). "The House with a Clock in Its Walls Ticks Along Tolerably". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  13. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (October 28, 2016). "Matthew Malek & Anita Gou Launch Indie Company Foxtail Entertainment". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  14. ^ Nicholson, Amy (January 22, 2018). "Sundance Film Review: 'Assassination Nation'". Variety. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  15. ^ McNary, Dave (December 21, 2016). "Suki Waterhouse, Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Abra to Star in 'Assassination Nation'". Variety. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  16. ^ McNary, Dave (March 1, 2017). "Bella Thorne, Maude Apatow, Joel McHale Join Thriller 'Assassination Nation'". Variety. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  17. ^ Ford, Rebecca (March 1, 2017). "Bella Thorne, Joel McHale, Maude Apatow, Bill Skarsgard Join 'Assassination Nation'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  18. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (March 30, 2017). "Aaron McCusker To Co-Star In Indie Film 'Incoming'; Noah Galvin Joins 'Assassination Nation'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  19. ^ McNary, Dave (April 19, 2017). "Anika Noni Rose Joins Thriller 'Assassination Nation' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "2018 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: FEATURE FILMS ANNOUNCED". Sundance Film Festival. November 29, 2017. Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  22. ^ "Sundance Program Schedule" (PDF). Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  23. ^ Prange, Stephanie (November 15, 2018). "'Assassination Nation' Coming to Digital and Disc Dec. 18 From Universal". MediaPlay News. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  24. ^ Fuster, Jeremy (September 18, 2018). "Can 'House With a Clock in Its Walls' Become the Fall's First Family Box Office Hit?". TheWrap. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  25. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 22, 2018). "'The House With A Clock In Its Walls' Waking Up To $24M+ Alarm; Counterprogramming Hits Snooze – Friday PM Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  26. ^ "Assassination Nation's international releases". The Numbers. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  27. ^ "Why Did Assassination Nation Bomb in Worst Box Office Opening of the Year?". W. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
  28. ^ "'Assassination Nation' Ads Rejected by Facebook, YouTube". Variety. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
  29. ^ "Assassination Nation (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  30. ^ "Assassination Nation Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  31. ^ "TIFF Reveals Full Canadian Lineup, Including 19 New Films and Special Premiere Event of Rob Stewart's Final 'Sharkwater' Doc". IndieWire. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  32. ^ "Utopiales 2018 : le Festival international de science-fiction de Nantes dévoile son palmarès". France 3. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  33. ^ "Award This! 2019 Winners List". Film Threat. Retrieved April 25, 2020.

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