If you would like to read our earlier TIFF review of Assassination Nation, click here.
Synopsis: High school senior Lily and her group of friends live in a haze of texts, posts, selfies and chats just like the rest of the world. So, when an anonymous hacker starts posting details from the private lives of everyone in their small town, the result is absolute madness leaving Lily and her friends questioning whether they’ll live through the night. (Neon)
Starring: Odessa Young, Hari Nef, and Abra
Writer: Sam Levinson
Director: Sam Levinson
Rating: 18A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 110mins
Now this one has a little bit of everything going for it. It definitely has a lot to say as well. Some will surely not agree with how the film says it but it should be said. In fact, this film is angry as hell and doesn’t care all that much about what people think although it provides a helpful warning early on about what was to come. It was this take no prisoners sentiment that makes it such a blast to watch. The film is part biting satire and part bloodbath with both of these surprisingly fitting together better that one would expect. The story was about four girls named Lily (Young), Bex (Nef), Em (Abra), and Sarah (Suki Waterhouse) who had to survive the night as their town of Salem devolved into complete madness.
The main purpose of the film was to hold a mirror to today’s society with Salem serving as a microcosm of said society and it does so with striking accuracy. Its depiction of Salem is arguably savage while perhaps pessimistic in tackling society’s overdependence on social media in the digital age and how it brings out the worst parts of us. At least we can keep so of these worst parts of us private. However in today’s internet age, we are losing our privacy more and more every day though what happens when our privacy is gone? This is already the case for some people but this film attempts to answer this question on a macro level as it follows the self-destruction of Salem after an anonymous hacker exposed the private details of its residents.
As the true nature and secrets of the people of Salem were slowly revealed, more issues began to surface beit the male gaze, toxic masculinity, or gun culture with some feminism sprinkled in for good measure. Once the girls became the targets of the town (mimicking the Salem witch trials), it became a bloodbath. The film had been pushing the limit thus far so things became a literal bloodbath deserving of its 18A/R rating which will certainly not be for everyone. While this was thrilling to watch, the abrupt and closure-free ending will also irk some viewers. There wasn’t much to the characters themselves as they were mostly defined by the themes that the film tried to perpetuate so none were particularly deep. The chemistry between the four main girls was fun to watch but some may not find them likable. Ultimately, the film will live or die on their relatability.
The acting was great across the board with the performances of the four girls being the standouts. While not particularly deep, their chemistry more than made up for this. Young as Lily was a compelling lead and had the most to do here. Lily was flawed like everyone else but she was still likable and relatable. Nef as Bex was next and was good despite the fact that Bex was only defined by being trans. Abra and Waterhouse as Em and Sarah brought up the rear and were fine despite not having anything to their characters whatsoever.
Overall, this was an original, biting satire of social media culture and the internet age that isn’t particularly deep character wise and doesn’t hit with everything it was trying to say. Despite this, it was a bloody delight to watch from beginning to end. It’s just as funny as it is sad but its damn entertaining for sure though the madness ends far too quickly and the ending leaves much to be desired.