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Past, Present And Future

By Paul Hall

Racism. In itself, it’s a horrific term. Slavery by itself is a mind-numbing wrong. Combine the two in a modern-day film that feels ripped from the plantations of a Civil War-era Deep South, and you have a film whose very premise is horrific. Combine the overt racism of the past with the subtler racism of the present, and the horror of the new film Antebellum is more than just a garden variety excursion into the genre.

Our story begins as Eden (Janelle Monáe) is surviving picking cotton in the fields for a ruthless master. The Confederate army has commandeered this plantation and will have their way with every person and thing at their disposal.

Eden tries to motivate the rest of the slaves to keep them from going crazy in the unnatural environment in which they are residing, all while trying to engineer an escape to the North, and to safety. But the journey is filled with abuses and pain as she watches friends get beaten and lives get lost. Through it all she has kept her friends close and her enemies closer.

Meanwhile, a parallel path of existence is plowing forward through the concrete jungle. There, Veronica (also Monáe) is a successful author who uses her position to empower the Black women of today. While she is speaking at a conference, we are introduced to some of Veronica’s friends and family who are almost too good to believe. She seems to be a woman who has it all. But does she?

The two worlds eventually collide as the story from the past and the story in the present shape the future of Veronica and her family and friends. Other than the deeper meaning that runs beneath the surface, just what is the connection that binds the two scenarios together?

This is not a classic horror movie. The scares are subtle and lie beneath the ever-bubbling surface of discontent. Mental horrors that will make you think and generate conversation abound, despite a fairly weakly crafted end sequence. I found my heart pounding and racing throughout the film as I waited for the bow to be tied on this story. Although that bow is messy, the visuals and Monáe’s talent make Antebellum a worthy film to chill you at your core.

Now, whether society is ready for a film like Antebellum and its underlying messages at this time — well, that’s a discussion for the rest of you.

Paul’s Grade: B

Rated R
Stars: Janelle Monáe, Eric Lange, Jena Malone
Directors: Gerard Bush, Christopher Renz

For Rental Beginning 9.18.20

Availability on Blu-ray/DVD is TBD.

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