By Mr. Will Wong
First-time Feature Directors and Writers Christopher Renz and Gerard Bush partner-up on Psychological-Horror ANTEBELLUM. The Film has been kept well under-wraps, its Trailer giving away just enough and nothing more to keep us intrigued this whole time. While she’s been seen only in a a handful of roles, Janelle Monáe has dazzled consistently and she takes on her meatiest role to date, effectively carrying the weight of this Film on her own.
Monáe stars as acclaimed Author Veronica Henley, who finds herself living a horrifying reality amidst a 19th century Plantation after a night out with her girlfriends. Things go terribly awry when she realizes that she is in the wrong car. She then finds herself in a Plantation and we’re unsure if this is a nightmare. She and others have been enslaved and are subject to horrific treatment, stripped of their former identities. Veronica must find a way to escape her captors before her fate is sealed forever.
While Renz and Bush take cues from others before it in ANTEBELLUM, including Jordan Peele‘s Get Out and Us, it isn’t until later on that we realize exactly what is happening. For a while, we are introduced to Veronica and Eden, her imposed slave persona, but aren’t quite clear the connection between the two. The story, while lagging in pace for the first-half, picks-up momentum and the thrills ensue. ANTEBELLUM though it doesn’t dwell enough in the history of slavery to speak as an educational piece (a missed opportunity), it does tap-in effectively into the feeling of primal fear when one’s fate is in the hands of others and they are void of free will. While it technically is a Horror, the Film dwells more in the Thriller genre, never quite going all the way in and spooking us as much as it keeps us in suspense.
Monáe is front and center and delivers a stunning performance that tests her range and she excels even if the material doesn’t.
Lionsgate release ANTEBELLUM Friday, September 18, 2020 on Premium On-Demand.