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Assassination Nation


Stars: Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Abra, Hari Nef, Bill Skarsgard, Maude Apatow, Colman Domingo, Bella Thorne, Kathryn Erbe

Director: Sam Levinson

Half-way between Heathers and Halloween, with a generous dollop of mass hysteria thrown in, this hard-to-hear but easy-to-follow bloodbath with 'message' ambitions centres on four (very) forward girls in their final year of high school who seem to spend less time studying than they do smoking marijuana or discussing sex in the most graphic terms possible.

Boys are inclined to have sex with them, but are also inclined to step back once they have had what an earlier generation would have called their wicked way.

But there's a master hacker abroad in the town, and they're making sure that some compromising pictures and material on all and sundry go viral. The mayor (Cullen Moss) shoots himself, while the school principal (Domingo) is asked to resign.

Meanwhile, first among equals in the queen bitch quartet is Lily (Young) - but she's shocked to receive a text saying 'er0str4tus is coming for you'. Compromising photographs of her lead to being thrown out by her parents - but why doesn't she tell her mother (Erbe) that she was held down by four boys when the shots were taken?

At any rate, it soon gets around that Lily (with her friends) is responsible for the hacking (she wasn't). This leads to communal anarchy somewhat after the 'Purge' films, as the whole town dons masks (where did they find them all?), forming a widespread lynch mob determined to hunt the girls down and either kill them outright or see them hanged from the nearest tree.

The too-pretentious film does have things to say about a nation in thrall to self-flagellation and video nasties, but struggles to find a consistent tone before it finally makes up its mind where it wants to go.

The identity of the hacker does come as a genuine surprise and there's nothing wrong with Young's lead performance - although there's a poor role for Anika Noni Rose, one of the original screen Dreamgirls.

And there isn't a likeable character in the whole town of East Salem - obviously an appropriate name as the setting for a witch-hunt.

David Quinlan

USA 2018. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by FotoKem.
108 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 20 Nov 2018