Whenever any movie of any kind comes into fruition, my brain keeps driving home an ongoing revelation that I’ve been wanting to accept the more I continue to do this: I really have to stop settling for the bare minimum. If I want to enjoy a movie, I realize that it’s best if I want the film to try and fail as opposed to not trying at all and still be semi-passable; the great irony in that is “Antebellum” somehow doesn’t even cross a fine line between those two. It’s literally 105 minutes of the film constantly shooting itself in the foot every few minutes, trying to bring relevance to a personal topic that other slave films have achieved on a grander scale and failing to bring about anything meaningful to say about the message.
The message it entails is simple and powerful enough on its own regarding systematic racism, the still buried seeds of white supremacy and the legacy that said person has to carry whether or not you’re intertwined in that course of history. Rather than find a clever way to have its presentation and characters and even the atmosphere speak out to work around and beyond its leafs of simplicity however, it instead drowns itself in endless stretches of self-indulgence. It comes off as very exploitive in almost every frame and as a 20 year old black man in America, that’s really a f’n problem. Not to mention, the use of horror within itself is extremely misleading, for the scares themselves and the imagery it possesses are nigh-nonexistent. To its credit, the film poses some rather beautiful cinematography at the helm, I found no issue with the sound design, said production and costume design is mostly on point and Janelle Monáe was solid as she normally is but keep this in mind: how do you expect to create any stroke of tension in a movie like this with characters this poorly drawn, the world they inhabit featuring so little internal logic, the dialogue this badly inert and the narrative within itself failing to go through with it’s admittedly intriguing concept due to such a messy plot and an redundant amount of padding. Not to mention if you’ve already seen the trailer, you’ll see the M. Night Shyamalan twist coming within a mile away so there’s almost nothing in this movie that sticks out as any genuine sort of surprise.......outside of the fact that it’s as messily executed as the plot itself.
I know it’s possible to get across stories of slavery (past and present) in our country and wrap that into a horror movie; that essentially writes itself. But one must have a strong sense of history and a stronger point of view.....and an unbiased one at that in order to pull off the required ligaments to make that story stick. But it was really annoying how this movie essentially either plays it safe or constantly backtracks against what it promises to do and it’s both sad and laughable that they considered this to be worth $20 and even more so that Jordan Peele himself produced this.