Every once in a while, a movie will come along that is incredibly difficult to talk about. One such movie is Antebellum – a new horror-thriller from directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz.
Antebellum is difficult to talk about because it is a movie which is best approached when you know next-to-nothing about it. Don’t worry you can still read this review, there are no major spoilers here, but I am aware I need to tread carefully with my words, and if you haven’t watched the movie yet, I urge you to tread carefully until you have watched it.
Set around a small, Louisiana cotton plantation, Antebellum is a dark, yet compelling picture, which focuses on a group of black men and women who are kidnapped by Confederate soldiers and forced into slavery. By day they are made to pick cotton, cook, clean and attend to the soldiers needs, while by night, the women are offered up as sexual conquests.
Every person who is brought to the plantation has to fall in line. Anyone who refuses, or who tries to flee, is sentenced to death.
Amongst this group is Eden – a young woman played by Janelle Monáe. Eden has plans to escape the plantation, but she knows she must wait for the right opportunity, even if that means enduring the whims of her captors in the meantime.
But Eden knows she can’t wait around forever; each day is torture. However, a previous attempt to escape proved tragic for fellow captives, and if she is not careful, then she will suffer the same fate.
If any of this disturbing premise seems familiar, it might be because you have already heard some rumblings about Antebellum. This is likely, as the movie was released in some parts of the world in late 2020, receiving either a theatrical release or a video-on-demand (VOD) release depending on where you live.
For those of us who live in the UK, Antebellum should have arrived in cinemas toward the end of last year, but due to the ongoing problems with the pandemic, the movie’s release was shelved. Since then, details of Antebellum’s release have been somewhat quiet, as it looked like it was getting a theatrical reshuffle.
However, there will be no cinema release, as from Friday, Antebellum will be available to stream instead. The movie is coming exclusive to SKY and NOW TV, arriving just in time for the Easter weekend.
As mentioned previously, Antebellum is a movie which works best with minimal prior knowledge. Going into this picture, I only knew the very basics of the story, and this was due to catching a trailer for Antebellum back in early 2020 (pre-pandemic).
So, when the film began, I didn’t know what to expect, and I soon found myself getting caught up in the drama very quickly. I could feel this emotional undercurrent running through my body as I witnessed some very tough events unfold on screen, and it was clear this film wouldn’t pull any punches as it moved forward.
And it doesn’t. There are some truly shocking moments as Antebellum delves deeper and deeper into its story, and while it takes some time until the full horror of the movie is established, tension is built up throughout.
But what really stood out for me the most about this movie, was how relevant Antebellum felt. The movie focuses on the oppression of people of colour, and its subject matter resonates strongly with some of the headlines that have been appearing in the news over the past year.
While it might initially appear as if the movie is telling a story that has played out on screen before, it actually digs a little deeper into recent social issues. It opens up conversations about race relations that need to be had, and it walks a similar line to leading horror movies such as Get Out (2017) and US (2019).
Some have argued that Antebellum doesn’t go far enough, and some reviews have suggested it doesn’t quite live up to its potential. I disagree – I believe this to be a bold, incredibly involving picture, which does its best to make the audience feel uncomfortable, while at the same time inspires thought and contemplation.
Adding much more to the film could have robbed it of its central themes and its shock value, and could have risked padding it out unnecessarily. For me, it hits all of its marks, delivers more than expected, and stays in the mind long after the closing credits have rolled.
If you have a passing interest in horror, or dark thrillers, then I urge you to give this movie a watch. At times Antebellum is tough, and I expect many will feel anger and sadness while watching the movie, but this is an uncompromising story, with a strong central performance that needs to be seen.
The horror genre continues to knock it out of the park, and Antebellum is a fine example of the genre creating engaging stories. This is chilling stuff, very impressive, and should be on your ‘watch list’ this weekend.