The times they are a changin’ or at least we all like to think so. But, if we are being honest, there is still a lot that needs sorting in the modern world...an awful lot! Generations have moved on but the spewed up bile of the social media age has sometimes made us want to just tap out completely, with extreme forces of hate coming in from both sides of the spectrum. However, it is important to look past the screaming and shouting online, and see that there is hope out there, even in a fragmented world like this one. Though the horrors of history should not be erased or ever forgotten as we look towards that hope. But, what happens when remnants of such history still remain in the present? Antebellum, the new horror from writers/directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, stretches its stained wings in this very dark area.
The film sees writer and activist Veronica Henley (Janelle Monáe) forced to re-live the hopelessness of the years of black slavery, in a waking nightmare that there seems to be no waking up from. Antebellum is promoted as coming from “the producers of Get Out and Us”, though Jordan Peele’s works undoubtedly take more subtle approaches than this one. For that matter, Antebellum is lightyears away from subtle (lacking some of the social commentary or satire of the above) in the important points it raises of how aggressive racism, engrained in the poison roots of the nation’s past, still exists in powerful sectors of America.
However, while some might justifiably call it exploitative, as it attempts blending the real horrors uncomprimisingly depicted in the likes of Steve McQueen’s Oscar winning 12 Years A Slave, with the big reveal gimmickry of noughties M. Night Shymalan thrillers like The Village (an especially strong comparison here), Antebellum does still manage to hold the attention thanks to the power it harnesses from its subject.
Monáe offers a strong headline performance which boldly leads the film along, as the viewer judges exactly where things are going, and once they get there, she unleashes a retributive ferocity (that recalls Django Unchained) which comes as a gratification for the character and viewer, considering what actions occurs in the lead up. Charismatic support (if some of it is rather sadly fleeting sometimes) comes from Marque Richardson and Gabourey Sidibe, while Sweetheart’s Kiersey Clemons also makes emotive impact in a limited role.
Antebellum is a film that will lose many at its twist or with its attempts to mesh the historically harrowing with the twisty thriller but in spite of this, the premise is still one with its share of powerful images. As Pedro Luque’s cinematography is very striking but also quite lingeringly brutal or bleak, linking our turbulent present day with the blood-stained flag of the confederacy era in America.
Release Date: April 2nd (Sky Cinema)