Antebellum (2020): 15 Interesting Reviews and Reactions by Fans and Critics!

  • AUTHOR: dua
  • POSTED ON: February 6, 2021

Antebellum was made with the intention of creating an extraordinary narrative thriving on complexities, but you come out of the movie unable to articulate what you just witnessed. You’d be surprised at how annoyed you’ll feel by the end of the movie watching those credits roll down on your screens.

Throughout the movie, you’ll fail to develop any connection with the story, as it formulates for you a gimmicky twist along with an irrational series of climatic reveals. It’s a hard act to live up to when you’re simply filled with hollow entities. Cinema isn’t supposed to be entitled – it needs to live up to reality, especially if it aims to make social commentary. If you settle on making on a movie about the systemic oppressions of society, you better not add flavors, as that makes it lose relevance.

It’s not like the debut of the Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz collaboration is unworthy of attention and praise – it has its moments.

However, the truth is that its half-baked amalgamation of facts and fiction disintegrates the nuances required in this format of storytelling. The opening sequence is impressively shot and the Coen brothers have truly outdone themselves this time as the costumes are marvelously designed. But that’s when the ray of positive sunshine dies. The crux of it all is mishandled and muddled. 

Right before the opening scene, William Faulkner’s quote flashes on your screen:“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” A familiar quote that leaves you nothing but intrigued.

On the surface, Antebellum seems to have it all but somehow the depiction of violence and the slavery trope feel exploitative. It leaves you feeling icky about the clichéd enactment of slavery – it’s too polished and varnished. You can see the attempt was an honest one, but Bush and Renz fail to conceptualize and execute the story, which is supposed to be layered and insightful.

Actress Monáe essays the ill-conceived character with conviction and exudes radiance, which is simply outstanding. You can’t deny the power of her screen presence – she simply commands your attention when she’s up there. However, her performance becomes strained with every passing scene, all thanks to the intensity with which her situations grew sillier. Her character arc becomes stagnant as the writer got tricked into his own web of victimized platitudes. 

No one is arguing that movie-making is not an onerous labor. In fact, we believe that when Antebellum premiered on PVOD, its primary objective was to give renaissance to the meaning of American slavery. And frankly, nothing but a blistering response should’ve been expected out of it.

At the heart of it, this is a story about a woman who’s a victim of her horrifying circumstances and she’s unable to come to terms with her history, present, and future. The cinematic discourse was timed perfectly, as we’re openly hosting topics like race due to the BLM movement that catalyzed the national dialogue but— unfortunately— the critics aren’t buying it.

Rotten Tomatoes scored it with a 285 rating, arguing that it was an “unpleasant experience”. On the opposing end, there’s Stephanie Zacharek from Times showering praises on Monáe for her “electrifying” performance. She continues to describe the movie as “a tense, thoughtful picture that seeks both to entertain and provoke.

In addition, The Atlantic blocks it as “a gory theme-park ride showcasing the horrors of slavery” and has concluded that it’s a “leering, exploitative depiction of violent, slavery movie tropes”.

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Renz claims that the negative reaction from the critics is mainly due to the subject and material of the film rather than the movie itself.

He said: “We knew, based on slavery, that there were going to be plenty of people that would say, ‘Why is this movie necessary at this time? It’s irresponsible’, etc, and that’s the headline — that there’s no need for any other ‘slave film’, which we completely understand.”

He continued: “However, we’re not going to contribute to the erasure of the history of Black people in America and how this country was founded, and where they want to get back to. This movie really is a visual representation of what ‘Make America Great Again’ would look like.”

A lot of critics implied that the creators are experiencing a slavery movie fatigue, but Bush sternly rejects this notion. He believes that he didn’t aim to please the White audience with this film. Hence, he suggests that as a Black artist, himself he knows the reality of his people and is well-versed with the brutal hardships that caused the community so much blood.

“I think from our perspective, the stories of the enslaved are by and large always approved or greenlit by someone white. And so it’s interesting to me that Quentin Tarantino is the only one who has been able to do something so provocative with the slave narrative in ‘Django Unchained’ because he could.” – He said.

Despite having some major redeemable traits, the film has largely received negative reviews. To be utterly honest, The Atlantic’s headline that says ‘Antebellum isn’t just bad, it’s vile” has to hurt. In retrospect, the twists and turns of the film in the initial scenes seemed almost irrelevant and tasteless after that final plot twist and maybe that’s what has triggered such a wild response.

Interestingly, some critics complained that the incorporation of graphic details of slavery didn’t suit the genre of elevated horror. They found it too far-fetched and serious for the overall theme of the film. The attempt to showcase a gruesome representation of slavery enveloped in a relevant social message was a noble one but, unfortunately, a misfire. There are many sequences that don’t match the tone of the entire movie – they’re shot inconsistently and ruin the overall tempo.

To conclude it, the movie was thrilling piece of horror with insincere depictions of slavery that was added to cultivate strong feelings. But instead of insinuating feelings of empowerment, it embroiled frustration and disengagement.

The film's bombshell twist was a major source of consternation for critics who felt it was exploitative, predictable, and implausible. Critical consensus appears to agree that, although Antebellum strived to create a compelling horror story with a relevant social message, its obvious twist and gruesome presentation cost the film dearly with audiences. Antebellum's failure to connect with viewers means the forthcoming remake of Candyman may still be the most important horror movie despite a delay to 2021, as it addresses similar themes with what is hopefully the more successful approach.

After Antebellum (2020) released, fans and critics jumped at it and for justified reasons. We deconstructed 15 interesting reviews above and now check out reviews and reactions by fans because at times fans and critics are not on the same page.




Updated February 6, 2021
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