The formula that Jordan Peele introduced in his 2018 hit Get Out of using bigotry and racial tension as a socially conscious horror has quickly become a one hit wonder in terms of success. Antebellum becomes just another woke horror film that doesn’t have the ability to be half as smart and thought provoking as it thinks it is.
Americans have seen enough racially divisive politics this summer that has left businesses burned, Americans killed, and livelihoods destroyed. Given the circumstance, it is safe to say that moviegoers are unlikely to embrace a film which seeks to double down on divisiveness which is bad news for Lionsgate’s Antebellum.
A film that was supposed to be released in April was pushed back due to COVID restrictions finally sees a VOD release to ice cold reception.
Actress-singer Janelle Monáe has been vocal about using this film as a mirror for those who are not committed to being “anti-racist”. Monáe wants to help white people who don’t get why Black lives matter and sees Antebellum as an activist film. The problem is unless you are willing to spend $20 online on a lecture of progressive politics, then this film has no value to offer you as a viewer.
Antebellum is a film about a popular progressive activist named Veronica Henley (Monae). Veronica is considered a rockstar in the field of progressivism due to her lectures on intersectionality. However, there is one group that is not a fan of her political views so they decide to kidnap her and suddently, Vernonica finds herself back into the age of American slavery. Now forced to relive the horrors that her black ancestors experienced in the Antebellum South during the height of the civil war, she experiences the torture and abuse by the Confederate Army that is brutal in it’s nature and Veronica realizes that she will not survive much longer without a play of escape.
Antebellum is the textbook definition of what happens when you have a filmmaker who cares more about the film’s “message” than the film itself. Antebellum fails the litness test of every verifiable metric of how the quality of a movie is judged. The editing is poor, the writing is poor, the acting is ham fisted, the structure is jumbled, and the film finally collapses under its own weight when the “twist” of the film is revealed.
Antebellum is everything you don’t want to be in a horror film, dull and unengaging. The first five minutes of the movie opens with cinematic slow motion rundown of the brutal conditions of a southern plantation. However with no set up or context to what is happening, there is no emotional connection to anything you are watching. The impact Antebellum wishes that it had the same heart wrenching effect that miniseries such as Roots had in the 1970s but delivers none of it because it fails from the jump.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the entire first act is stuck in the civil war south before it jumps you abruptly back into the present day. 40 minutes is what it takes before audiences are given any shred backstory to the film they are watching as if the 1st and 2nd acts are shown in the complete wrong order. If you haven’t tapped out at this point, the film concludes with a twist that is so ridiculous, it makes it impossible to leave this film on a positive note.
Story is the most important aspect of any film, without it, the narrative dies on the vine and your audiences won’t bother to care even if you can keep their interest with visual stunts.
While Antebellum may be cheaper than a lecture at a liberal arts college, it doesn’t mean it is anymore fun.