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Parents' Guide to


By Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Brutal slavery horror pic has cool twists but lacks depth.

Movie R 2020 105 minutes
Antebellum Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 13+

This title has:

Educational value
age 14+

Exposing the twisted reality of American slavery

The movie did good at highlighting slavery for what it was, even without scratching the surface on the sheer horror and helplessness many slaves felt during the time—it puts you in their shoes. Of course, America still carries on this legacy of racism and colonization and the movie encourages fighting back and resistance. I believe it’s a great thriller and motivator to take a stand and put an end to this centuries-long nightmare.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (6 ):

There's plenty of terror in being part of a marginalized, brutalized group, and horror is a fantastic medium to explore pain, so why does this well-meaning film ultimately fail to land? Certainly, the characters' lack of specificity is a problem. Monáe is a powerful and compelling actor, and it's certainly creepy that she and her fellow enslaved workers are forbidden to speak -- which also serves as a decent metaphor for how marginalized people are silenced in real life. But although Monáe's expressive face communicates Eden's unending pain and fear, her silence also makes it difficult for her to know who she is and for viewers to connect to her as a person. Most of the other enslaved people don't even have names, which is likely an artistic choice but also makes it difficult to identify which characters are important.

Antebellum's White characters, too, lack humanity in more ways than one. They're unquestionably brutal and abusive, but they're also generically evil. What drives them to do the things they do? Viewers never understand, and though the filmmakers try to remedy that gap with an unintentionally hilarious chunk of exposition that Malone's Elizabeth delivers from horseback under a truly epic awful wig, it still doesn't make much sense. Ultimately, most of Antebellum's running time is taken up in watching the enslavers abuse the enslaved: A woman is dragged by a rope around her neck, a character is branded, women pick cotton under the hot sun in long skirts while men point guns and whisper about what they plan to do to the women at night. It's horrific, true, and hard to watch, but what's the ultimate point of all the suffering? Here it leads to cathartic violence (and, it shouldn't go without saying, some thought-provoking and nicely timed twists), but, without a character arc, it feels empty. And so does Antebellum.

Movie Details

  • On DVD or streaming: September 18, 2020
  • Cast: Janelle Monáe , Jena Malone , Jack Huston
  • Directors: Gerard Bush , Christopher Renz
  • Inclusion Information: Non-Binary actors, Pansexual actors, Queer actors, Black actors
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Genre: Horror
  • Run time: 105 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content, language, and sexual references
  • Last updated: December 22, 2022

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