This story follows a woman (played by Janelle Monáe) who is currently a slave on a plantation site. Like this woman, many other slaves are forced to work and do horrific things. Many have tried to escape, but each attempt ends with tragic and heartbreaking consequences.
The film opens up with what feels like a single take shot takes, revealing someone attempting to escape the plantation. This montage also shows the world this woman is currently forced to live in. For me to tell anything else regarding this film’s plot would be a major spoiler. I will state that things are not what they appear to be. The film’s marketing (including the trailer) not only reveals far too much of the film, but it also shows critical plot elements which should ideally be kept hidden from the viewer.
In case you’re wondering, Antebellum doesn’t feel like a horror film even though it certainly feels that is how the film was marketed to movie lovers. It’s more of a drama with a slight touch of thriller. Visually, this film is genuinely pleasing, and it shows off many dark and gritty moments. The audio track is also great, and I found the movie’s opening quite gripping. This opening featured uncomfortable imagery with a powerful soundtrack.
As a plot, it’s pretty slow. I was surprised to see how much time passes in this film with little to no benefit to the film’s plot or story. Watching people get tortured or even characters having a sit-down conversation may seem attractive in the moment on screen. Still, these moments never provide any real reason for one’s investment. The film could have easily been trimmed down with twenty to thirty minutes removed, and there would have been no difference to the final product. The film does have a reveal, yes, but once the film decides to make its big reveal, audiences will discover that secrets are relatively minor and not overly that exciting or shocking. Any twists found in Antebellum are purely done by the writers and directors toying with the audience rather than having a story that is designed to have a twist ending. A few changes in the way this story is told, and there would have been no twist ending.
Performances at times are also delivered with low effort, and many characters feel forced. Granted, leading actress Janelle Monae was easily the best highlight of the film. I also think this film is trying to speak to its audiences and sneak in some positive messages. However, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I still don’t quite understand what some of these messages mean other than the obvious. It seems to be complicated and unclear as the end credits appeared.
Overall, while Antebellum has stunning visuals, an eerie soundtrack and a reliable performance by Janelle Monae, this film is somewhat disappointing to see. As a plot, it is filled with dull moments, and while it delivers a twist reveal, this feels more of a weak trick thanks to the director’s attempt to be creative which I can somewhat appreciate. The trailer and the poster will hint that this film is a new horror style, but surprise! It’s not. Antebellum is a drama which carries minor elements of thrills and is bound to please some audiences.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden