Movie trailers often give away too much, but sometimes they are intentionally misleading. I see what Antebellum was trying to be, but it just never got there. Part of the problem was how it was advertised. The tag line is:
“Successful author Veronica Henley finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality and must uncover the mind-bending mystery before it’s too late.”
It’s not a “mind-bending mystery” at all. Mystery implies the audience is trying to solve some puzzle presented by the film, but just because a film has a twist doesn’t make it a mystery. While it’s frightening in a visceral way during certain scenes, it’s not really much of a horror movie either. This wasn’t at all the psychological horror I was expecting and that looming sense of terror isn’t present, so there’s very little in the way of tension building aside from the fantastic original music by Roman GianArthur and Nate Wonder. The scene-setting is pretty strong and Pedro Luque’s cinematography is great too but it’s slightly handicapped by the generally muted color palette of the production design.
The jump from music videos to a full-length feature film is a big one. Writer/Director duo Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz showed that they have a strong grasp on visualization, but the film lacked in pacing and the narrative suffered from a lack of connective tissue. There’s also some continuity problems that’ll leave you scratching your head.
Janelle Monáe was good in moments but she could have used a little more help. Her character, Veronica, is supposed to be an influential author but in the moments where that’s supposed to come across, it doesn’t connect. The dialogue in those moments is populated with talking points rather than depth so, while the audience gets the point, the film didn’t invest in establishing the authenticity of the character.
Jack Huston is great as Captain Jasper and the movie would have benefitted from a lot more of him but he isn’t the primary antagonist which takes a little sting out of the punch. That role is split between Jena Malone and Eric Lange. While Lange was convincingly predatory and lecherous, Malone was fairly cartoonish. Sadly, her portrayal is laugh-out-loud comical during the most pivotal part of her role and the narrative would have functioned perfectly fine without her.
Looking back, I liked the concept but the execution could have been better. The screenplay works well enough when things are rolling but it struggles in establishing foundation. As a debut feature, it’s definitely not bad but it’s simply not as compelling as it could have been.
Recommendation: If you enjoyed Get Out and Us, there’s a chance you’ll still enjoy but it’s not as coherent. At $20/rental it felt a little overpriced, so there’s no problem waiting until that price point comes down a little bit.