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A Magazine for Sheffield

Assassination Nation

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We often look back at films that define a moment. Into this world of renewed female empowerment, #metoo and pervasive social media comes a war cry wrapped up in neon. Assassination Nation is a retelling of the Salem Witch Trials with its finger firmly on the pulse and a determination to be heard.

The leafy suburbs of Salem, Massachusetts may look like the embodiment of the American Dream, but on closer inspection each face is masked. Lily Colson (Odessa Young) is popular, beautiful and embracing her sexuality. She does this primarily by sending nudes to her anonymous 'daddy' online, unbeknown to boyfriend Mark (Bill Skarsgård). Before the chaos comes a taste of high school life and the Mean Girls posse of Bex (Hari Nef), Em (Abra) and Sarah (Suki Waterhouse). Referencing recent iCloud leaks, anti-gay Mayor Bartlett (Cullen Moss) is revealed to be not quite so anti-gay after all.

Scratching off the insta-veneer reveals the angst of teenage life beneath. Each nude Lily sends is one of hundreds she's taken, agonised over to find light and angles that hide her imperfections. Bex's sexual encounters are kept secret on account of her being transgender. One dinner table scene strikes a familiar chord as Lily's politics are dismissed by her father because she's 'just a girl'.

As the leaks intensify, Salem descends into chaos. Lily's private life is exposed in every sense and she faces trial by internet. Mob rule descends on the city. Lives are ruined, male egos bruised and vendettas waged.

There's little subtlety in the analogy for Trump's America, with antagonists driving pick-up trucks to 'take back' the town. The millennial vernacular of 'lit' and 'legit' soon falls away, moving from Presents: The Purge to machine gun clips. Assassination Nation's tongue-in-cheek trigger warning tells of blood, sexism, murder, toxic masculinity, bruised male egos and plenty more. It wasn't kidding - the girls just about take on the world.

Next article in issue 129

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