Assassination Nation

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Assassination Nation
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySam Levinson
Written bySam Levinson
Produced by
CinematographyMarcell Rév
Edited byRon Patane
Music byIan Hultquist
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 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][1]

Assassination Nation is a 2018 American satirical black comedy thriller film[7][8][9][10] 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,[11][12] 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 Gozie AGBO, before being joined by 30West and Refinery29.

Assassination Nation had its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, and was released theatrically in the United States on September 21. It has grossed $2.8 million worldwide and received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised its "frenetic and visually stylish" action but criticized what were called thinly written characters.[13]


In the town of Salem, high school senior Lily Colson regularly hangs out with her three best friends, Bex Warren and sisters Em and Sarah Lacey. They go to a party where Bex hooks up with her crush Diamond, while Lily hangs out with her boyfriend Mark, simultaneously texting a man only known as Daddy behind his back. After having 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 is supposed to address the facts, Bartlett publicly commits suicide. Salem High's kindhearted Principal Turrell 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 a meeting with angry parents, he refuses to resign, intending to set things right for the students and do what is best for the school itself.

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 Grace's nude pictures to her boyfriends and they are now public; Grace strikes Reagan with a baseball bat during her cheerleading practice, rendering her comatose. Daddy is revealed to be Em and Sarah's neighbor Nick Mathers, who Lily used to babysit for. The lewd pictures and videos that Lily sent to Nick are made public when his information is leaked. As a result, she is exposed and humiliated by Mark, forcing her parents to disown her from their 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. Eventually, she stuns him with a shovel before going into hiding in Em and Sarah's house.

A week later, most of the town has donned masks and taken up arms to get revenge on those they think have wronged them. Nick, now leading a mob of vigilantes in masks, capture Marty, whom they torture into admitting that Lily's IP address seemed to be the source of the hacks. 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, and break in. Their mother, Nance, attempts to keep the marauders at bay, but she sadly sacrifices herself for Lily and Bex to escape the raid. Meanwhile, led by Officer Richter, the mob drags Em and Sarah outside and puts them into a police car. Bex takes out one of the attackers with a nail gun and makes her way out onto the streets to find help, while Lily hides in Nick's house.

Nick at first pretends to help Lily before brandishing a knife, intending to rape her to death for exposing the townspeople's secrets and causing the disintegration of his marriage and family. She manages to incapacitate him and hides in the bathroom, where she discovers Marty's corpse. Nick manages to get inside, but after a brief struggle, Lily finally puts him down with a razor blade. She discovers his large cache of weapons, which she uses to gun Richter down and rescue Sarah and Em from his custody. Meanwhile, Bex is captured by Diamond's best friend, Johnny, who tries to force Diamond to hang her as retribution for his humiliation. Bex convinces him to spare her, so Johnny has him tied up. Lily, Em, and Sarah rescue Bex, eliminating all of Johnny's friends in the process. Johnny surrenders and begs for his life; Bex spares him and frees Diamond. Lily makes a video proclaiming her innocence and urging everyone in Salem to stand up and fight back against their tormentors; she is soon joined by a crowd of victims who are suspected by the mob for wronging them with the hacks.

After the riot, Lily's younger brother Donny, the mastermind behind the hacks, is captured and charged for cyberterrorism, murder, and invasion of privacy. When he asked why he did it by his parents, Donny reveals that he did it all for his amusement. The Salem High marching band performs Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop" through the destroyed town littered with dead bodies and destroyed vehicles.


In addition, Cullen Moss appears as Mayor Bartlett.



Abra, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef and Odessa Young in 2018.

In October 2016, Matthew Malek and Anita Gou launched the independent label Foxtail Entertainment, with the duo announcing Sam Levinson's Assassination Nation as their first project; David S. Goyer and Kevin Turen joined them to produce the film.[14] It is also produced by Bron Studios and Phantom Four Films, in association with Creative Wealth Media Finance.[15]


In December 2016, Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, and Abra joined the main cast of the film.[16]

In March 2017, Bella Thorne, Maude Apatow, Bill Skarsgård, Joel McHale, Colman Domingo, and Noah Galvin joined the cast.[17][18][19] The following month, Anika Noni Rose joined the cast.[20]


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.[21]


The film's score was written by Ian Hultquist, who stated that Levinson gave him "a completely blank slate" to work with, doing experimentations in "slowing down, and degrading audio but still somehow keeping it musical" and at a certain point composing an entire soundtrack written in the style of Ennio Morricone's Spaghetti Western work. Along with Morricone, Hultquist singled out influence from Marco Beltrami's soundtrack for Scream and Cliff Martinez’s "dark synth stuff", as well as taking inspiration from pop songs by Air, Kanye West, Lana Del Rey, Migos and BTS. A particular turning point for composition was when Levinson received from his friend Isabella Summers, who Hultquist also met as their bands Florence and the Machine and Passion Pit toured together, the song "Rage", which ended up in the soundtrack.[22]



The film had its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival on January 21.[23][24] 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]

The film was released in the United States on September 21, 2018, by Neon and Gozie AGBO in association with 30West and Refinery29.[2][3]

Home media[edit]

Assassination Nation was released digitally and on Blu-ray and DVD on December 18, 2018, by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.[25]


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.[1]

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.[26] However it ended up debuting to just $1 million, finishing 15th at the box office.[27] Internationally, the film was released in only five countries as a limited theatrical release.[28]

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".[29] Prior to the film release, analyst Jeff Bock compared the film to Heathers (1989), 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".[30]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 74% based on 137 reviews, with an average of 6.7/10. 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."[4] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 54 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[31] Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film a 60% positive score and a 39% "definite recommend".[27]


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 [32]
Sitges Film Festival October 14, 2018 Best Picture Nominated
Utopiales Film Festival November 5, 2018 Prix Utopia Won [33]
Film Threat - Award This! February 25, 2019 Indie Cinematographer Marcell Rév Won [34]
Biggest Oscar Snub Nominated
Best Director Sam Levinson Nominated


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Assassination Nation (2018)". The Numbers. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Fleming, Mike Jr. (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 c 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. ^ a b "Assassination Nation (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  5. ^ Scott, Mike (March 16, 2017). "Who's filming in New Orleans? Kristen Stewart, Jim Caviezel and more". Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  6. ^ "Assassination Nation (2018)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 6, 2022.
  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. ^ Robertson, Adi (January 24, 2018). "Assassination Nation is a vicious, cathartic horror film about misogyny". The Verge. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  11. ^ DeMara, Bruce (September 20, 2018). "Assassination Nation is bloody, funny and thought-provoking". Toronto Star. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  12. ^ Cuffari, Steven (June 13, 2020). "How Assassination Nation Modernized The Salem Witch Trials". Screen Rant. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  13. ^ Giles, Jeff (September 20, 2018). "The House with a Clock in Its Walls Ticks Along Tolerably". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  14. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (October 28, 2016). "Matthew Malek & Anita Gou Launch Indie Company Foxtail Entertainment". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  15. ^ Nicholson, Amy (January 22, 2018). "Sundance Film Review: 'Assassination Nation'". Variety. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  16. ^ McNary, Dave (December 21, 2016). "Suki Waterhouse, Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Abra to Star in 'Assassination Nation'". Variety. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  17. ^ McNary, Dave (March 1, 2017). "Bella Thorne, Maude Apatow, Joel McHale Join Thriller 'Assassination Nation'". Variety. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  18. ^ Ford, Rebecca (March 1, 2017). "Bella Thorne, Joel McHale, Maude Apatow, Bill Skarsgard Join 'Assassination Nation'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ McNary, Dave (April 19, 2017). "Anika Noni Rose Joins Thriller 'Assassination Nation' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  21. ^ Murphy, Mekado (September 21, 2018). "How to Create a Terrifying Home Invasion in 'Assassination Nation'". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Hemmert, Kylie (September 26, 2018). "Interview - 'Assassination Nation' Composer Creates a Killer Score". Mandatory. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  23. ^ "2018 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: FEATURE FILMS ANNOUNCED". Sundance Film Festival. November 29, 2017. Archived from the original on December 22, 2017. Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  24. ^ "Sundance Program Schedule" (PDF). Sundance Film Festival. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 14, 2018. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  25. ^ Prange, Stephanie (November 15, 2018). "'Assassination Nation' Coming to Digital and Disc Dec. 18 From Universal". MediaPlay News. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ "Assassination Nation's international releases". The Numbers. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  29. ^ "Why Did Assassination Nation Bomb in Worst Box Office Opening of the Year?". W. September 23, 2018. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
  30. ^ "'Assassination Nation' Ads Rejected by Facebook, YouTube". Variety. September 20, 2018. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
  31. ^ "Assassination Nation Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  32. ^ "TIFF Reveals Full Canadian Lineup, Including 19 New Films and Special Premiere Event of Rob Stewart's Final 'Sharkwater' Doc". IndieWire. August 2018. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  33. ^ "Utopiales 2018 : le Festival international de science-fiction de Nantes dévoile son palmarès". France 3. November 4, 2018. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  34. ^ "Award This! 2019 Winners List". Film Threat. February 25, 2019. Retrieved April 25, 2020.

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