The debut feature from filmmakers Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz (aka Bush|Renz", who were previously associated with the glossy ads and JAY-Z's elegant 'Kill-Jay-Z music video' – cannot be blamed for its ambitiousness. Antebellum is a movie that has something to discuss America in the present, as well as the America that was not too long ago and how these two countries are very closely linked, and set as a dark and twisty thriller that is a part of the post-Get Out black horror boom. However, while the message is clearly stated but the rest of the film is a bit sloppy and uninformed.
Janelle Monae stood out in the ensemble in Moonlight in Moonlight and Hidden Figures, and here performs as a spirited actor in two different roles. In one, she's a the slave Eden facing brutality from Confederate soldiers as well as her plantation owners within The Antebellum South (hence the film's title). In another story, she's a an academic Veronica Henley, embarking on an author tour to promote her most recent novel called 'Shedding The Coping Personality which addresses the subject of trauma and identity politics. Instead of combining these two distinct strands, Bush and Renz play each of them in three distinct scenes, dragging what could be a witty and twilight zone-like tale, but with a sloppy, awkward the pace.
It's supposed to be difficult to watch and it's hard to watch however, it's rather hollow.
The film is centered around Eden first, and has an opening thirty minutes beautifully shot. An extended version of the romanticized images of the plantation in Gone With The Wind, before moving away from the white house that sparkles to concentrate on the slaves in on the fields. While Antebellum is advertised as an action film, genre elements are not present in its beginning, instead depicting the actual horrific realities of American slavery. It's an harrowing parade of images that is a show of Black painthat includes beatings, torture as well as murder, rape and even brutalisation. It's supposed to be difficult to watch and it's hard, but it's a bit and hollow.
The second half, in which we flip to Veronica's point of view It's not as brutal however it isn't as satisfying It's in this section that Bush as well as Renz's script is thin and dominated by characters that don't feel real and a blurring of dialogue that deprives this film of power. Also, the frightening moments are absentwhich results in a film that flits between terrifying and boring.
The final scene -going back to the plantation provides a much-needed release after the events preceding it, Antebellum can't help but be a bit uninspiring after its shocking revelation. Bush and Renz certainly have a bright future as directors with a visual aesthetics and ideas that are a meet, but the content isn't as strong as any actual terrors. What's really shocking is that Antebellum really isn't a scary film, but rather one which's real-life horrors had to be balanced out more cautiously.