Witch hysteria get a social-media makeover (trending) in writer/director Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation (2018).
The movie takes place in an affluent American suburb by the name of Salem, appropriately enough, where an online hack, which is to say prank, doxxes everyone’s pics and browser history for the requisite public outrage, shaming, and shunning. At this point Salem collectively loses it. Mobs of vigilantes roam the streets under the OG privacy setting of masks and look for somebody vulnerable to blame.
Our narrator Lily (Odessa Young), an outspoken, intelligent, emotionally needy, objectively hot teenage girl who has lots of sex without apology, finds that this makes her the ideal scapegoat in about twenty different ways for every locker-room-talking, toxically masculine, psychologically projecting, homo-repressed burn-the-witch payback-seeker at high school. She and her posse fight back hard in a wave of violent countermeasures with the fervor of a tent revival.
The darkly comic tone and the reactionary, blood-on-the-streets politics put me in mind of Project Mayhem from Fight Club (1999), but that’s where the similarities end. Misogyny, not consumerism, is the devil here, just like it was in Salem, Massachusetts, for the original coven of Salem witches, only this time, the iPhone, not religion, delivers it. Not that there’s much of a difference anymore.
It’s an attractive slice of our current predicament and an overall successful satire, and it comes complete with some excellent gore, but it’s not without its flaws. One of which is that it needs more gore.