The first reviews for Janelle Monáe's new slavery horror Antebellum are in, and it sounds like it's probably one better missed.
In fact, one reviewer has gone as far as calling it "2020's worst movie so far" – at the time of writing it has amassed a 31% score on Rotten Tomatoes – with many critics comparing it unfavourably to recent horrors such as Get Out, which have tackled social themes.
Antebellum, which is directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, follows Monáe's character Veronica Henley, a successful author who ends up trapped in a horrific reality on a Southern slave plantation.
Here's what critics have been saying:
"Ten years ago, at least by comparison to Amistad, this slave-horror would have sufficed as progress. But in an era of Get Out and Us, with their greater understanding of the fears Black people face in everyday America, Antebellum stalls as a horror film, and fails even greater as a weighty commentary on Black people's present oppressions."
"Grounding a genre movie in the history of slavery and the resurgence of white nationalism is a dark and dramatic gamble that pulls Antebellum out of the horror genre and into social commentary, or at least makes it an intriguing mix of the two. It's just too bad that the execution isn't sure-handed enough to live up to the ambition."
"Initially slated to be released this past April before it was delayed until the end of the most contentious summer in recent American history, Antebellum might have been a movie that met this awful moment, but its confused attempt at seeing yesterday in today resolves as a throwback to a time when anyone could actually overlook it in good faith."
"Three years after the runaway success of Get Out, directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz have followed in Jordan Peele's footsteps with another allegorical social thriller about the state of race relations in America. Much like the earlier film, Antebellum is a feature directorial debut that takes a big swing.
"But instead of just making reference to slavery, Bush and Renz have constructed a film that appears to take place in that painful past and our present simultaneously. Too bad the result is shallow, more interested in making a Big Point than digging meaningfully into its subject."
"Antebellum is a minor disappointment in the sense that it doesn't ultimately live up to its full promise, but it's also a movie that has tremendous merit and important things to say while being released during a time of enhanced strife. It doesn't fully click as a narrative, but its aspirations and messaging are admirable, and it will hopefully inspire audiences to be excited for what all involved have coming next."
"While Antebellum is no ordinary zombie movie, it treats systemic racism as a kind of contagion that refuses to die, eating the brains of successive generations. There's only one way to stop it, and that's by blowing the minds of all those infected — which is precisely the impact Antebellum achieves."
Antebellum is released on September 18 on Premium Video on Demand and select theatres in the US.
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