Currently, Hollywood is on this fast track of cranking out more socially conscious, films and television series since the unparalleled success of 2017's Get Out and compelling Superhero shows like HBO's Watchmen and Horror narratives, Lovecraft Country- bearing the unapologetic metaphors/content of inhumane American racism with African-Americans as the primary victims. The topic of racism is more prevalent than ever when you factor the extrajudicial killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many, many more. The protests under the name and coda of the Black Lives Matter movement has gain unprecedented momentum during a time where the President of the United States has often stoked the flames of racism via dog whistling and empty rhetoric.
All this while many are dying from Covid 19, Black peoples are disproportionately affected due to not having the luxuries working from home.
So now, that most of us are under lockdown six months in, newer theatrical releases, are distributed under streaming platforms, and one of the most recent, is Antebellum, yet another Horror film with sociopolitical pining’s, as in America's mistreatment of Blacks.
Antebellum features actress Janelle Monae (Harriet, Moonlight and Hidden Figures.) as Veronica Henley, a phenomenally successful author on sociology and empowerment, who finds herself within a nightmarish Slave plantation in Louisiana, overlooked by Confederate Soldiers.
At the start of the film's narrative, we see a female runaway slave fleeing a cotton plantation sans dialogue but in slow motion cinematography accompanied by some instrumental track. Of course, she does not go far the minute her captives gain pursuit.
This scene I suppose, serves its purpose for instantaneously engaging the viewer into what is perceived as the Antebellum era of chattel slavery. So, " fast forward" with Veronica receiving bizarre messages to the extent of mysterious gifts like flowers with cotton. The odd thing about the flowers, is why wasn't Veronica baffled with the cotton stems, since she believed they were sent from her Husband? Obviously, he would know what kind of flowers Veronica prefers.
"Cotton " is obviously a "bad sign”, but Veronica was not perceptive enough to figure investigate its contents. Now, I am taken out of the story's construct and found Antebellum a bit problematic. The pacing is slow and not engaging as I first thought during its first five minutes even when there's the somewhat constant appearance of Elizabeth, who plays a major role in this story especially during the plot's long waited unveiling where things are finally pieced together after the back and forth timeline where Monae also plays a slave and rape victim, Eden.
And this is where things get even more ridiculous, as in a facepalm moment. What seems what would be a supernatural suspenseful tale, is a bait and switch move reminiscent of an M. Night Shyamalan flick. Hint: Can you say, "The Village "?
It is also of no coincidence how the events bear familiarity with Jordan Peele's Get Out, since Directors written and directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, had previously worked on said film.
While Monae gives an adequate performance as the protagonist Veronica/Eden, the casting of Gabourey Sidibe as Veronica's bff Dawn, is uninspired at best.
Not because Sidibe is a bad actress, but her character richly emboldens the unflattering archetype of loud and obnoxious "Sistas", did not help compliment her role in this movie. Her singing to Lizzo's "Juice" as Veronica gets accosted was an uneven attempt at dark humor unlike Jordan Peele's highlighted scene in Us- regarding the "Alexa" and NWA's Fuck the Police.
I had to laugh when Eden was sneaking out of the plantation Metal Gear style, only to face her captor and for all the noise and ruckus, no one else was alarmed?!?
Antebellum is a weak attempt at showcasing the brutal horrors of slavery, or Man's inhumane atrocities to the extent that, even the crematorium scene pales to the evils showcased in 2019's The Nightingale. Yes, I was satisfied at the film's conclusion, but it lacked the buildup and tension, as in rape or using the N-word to feel further justification of the devils getting their dues, paid in full.
Antebellum may get its share of praise and please those looking for social commentary in their horror, however, its disappointing execution, borrowed scenarios and at times, cornball cinematography, is worthy of a cheap rental than a skip or purchase.
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