‘Antebellum’ Review Written By B. Gunn
Upon viewing the trailer for “Antebellum”, it intrigues you. You start to wonder, “Hey, this looks interesting. Could this be a slave horror movie?” or “Hey, this looks interesting. Could this be the ‘Back to the Future’ of slavery movies?” Hmmm? Well, trailers are akin to closet bigots…deceptive.
“Antebellum” stars Janelle Monae, Eric Lange, and Jena Malone. Monae plays Veronica Henley, a renowned sociologist who is somehow transported to the antebellum south, pre-civil war south, where she finds herself forced into slavery.
The opening scene is both eye-catching and visceral. You’ll be amazed at how authentic the plantation looks. The cinematography truly captures the 1860’s southern era. Your amazement instantaneously turns to horror as a disobedient slave is caught while her husband is made to watch her fate. This sets the tone for the next 48 minutes and it’s clear to see that “Antebellum” will be a torturous, uncomfortable slave film where you desperately want someone to save these defenseless souls. But something happens on that 49th minute that makes you go, HUH???
Aside from the brilliant, riveting performances from all the actors, the writing in “Antebellum” is its demise. I won’t give away any spoilers but I’ll say this; the film is shot out of chronological order. That’s mistake number one. That decision shifts the tone dramatically, interrupting the emotional connection.
Monae’s character Veronica is a highly respected, well-known strong family woman. Her best friend is a loud, obnoxious, almost stereotypical character played by Gabourey Sidibe. Other characters lack development, which is sorely needed to make the movie more believable.
Now, remember when you see the little white girl in the trailer who is in the elevator with Veronica? That scene goes absolutely nowhere. It leads you to believe that this film might have some horror aspects to it. There are horrific moments, but not the kind you might think.
One of the most electrifying performances comes from Kiersey Clemons. I do believe that is something that will stick with you, along with the treatment of Veronica. Brutality is a common theme here. The directors inject so much graphic violence that it becomes gratuitous. Like, we know this is how slaves were treated, but where are they going with this? There must be an endgame. Don’t put violence in here just because you can. There’s too much and it ultimately makes no sense.
It’s exploitive, a slap in the face to the ancestors.
There are a few plot holes in “Antebellum” which make this plot almost impossible to occur and that twist they keep talking about – well, you’ll be able to catch it sooner than you think. Most plot twists are supposed to make you go, “DAYUM! I didn’t see that coming!” It’s rather underwhelming.
Listen, there are some inspiring messages in this movie and the cinematography is breathtaking. The directors could’ve done sooooo much more with the material.
This film will be a conversation piece because of what’s going on in America right now. As mediocre as it is, “Antebellum” was released at the right time.
I mean, current events dealing with racial equality will save this movie. It will definitely play on your emotions and get you talking. Had this come out when it was supposed to, April 24th, I don’t think it would’ve lasted two weeks in theaters.
Since it’s out on VOD (Video On Demand) platforms, I can’t give my normal ratings. I will say it’s around $20, so if four of your friends wanna chip in five bucks each and have something to talk about, watch it.
Otherwise, I can’t co-sign one person spending an Andrew Jackson to view this. Let me know what you think!
Watch the trailer below:
Did you watch the film? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.