Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz’ Antebellum is a film of intended weight. Upon the first watch, it is clear that the filmmakers had a message to convey. Some critics question the effectiveness of that message. While its message is an important topic, the film succeeds in other ways. Ultimately, it works as a horror film with a unique story.
Techniques of Horror
On the surface, Antebellum is difficult to pinpoint in terms of its genre. The first half of the film works as a dramatic historical narrative. The historical elements seem realistic, and the intensity of the human story thrives. However, sprinkled throughout the first half are cinematic elements of dread. The on-screen imagery is dreadful enough, but the techniques of classic horror are always present. The cinematography is agonizingly suspenseful with slow moves and an underlying sinister score. In addition to that, the antagonists fit the genre in terms of their horrific qualities and wickedness.
Once the second half of the film starts, the horror elements become more apparent. We discover that instead of historical travesty, there is a modern-day cult element. When the real plot unfolds, we find the events are even more horrific than we thought. Antebellum succeeds as a horror film because of the classic horror techniques it uses.
A Unique Story
Another strength of the film is its surprisingly unique story. There are two halves to the narrative. Each half compliments the other. The first half is a tale of events past, while the second half is of things yet to come. Those two elements are linked because they trace back to the same event. It is a very creative and efficient storytelling technique.
Some critics argue that the film’s approach is too obvious and lacks any real substance. While there may some truth to that, if you view Antebellum as a horror film, those critiques hold less weight. The film is in the same vein as Midsommar. Events appear one way, then the story reveals an entirely different, yet related twist.
While Antebellum is the subject of criticism, it generally works within the horror genre. However, one question worth asking is, should be there in the first place?