Warning: This article contains major Antebellum spoilers. You probably knew that when you clicked on it.
Janelle Monáe‘s new horror movie, Antebellum, does not hold back on the “horror” aspect of it all. The first 40 minutes of this film—which released today on demand—finds Monáe as a slave on a cotton plantation, being tortured, humiliated, and demeaned in pretty much every way possible. Though her tormentor calls her Eden, we know that’s not her true name.
Then, quite suddenly, we flash forward to Monáe in the modern-day, now playing a character named Veronica. Veronica is a successful, wealthy author with a husband, a baby girl, and a hilarious best friend (played by Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe). At first, it’s implied that the 40-minute slave portion was a bad dream that Veronica had. Maybe Eden is Veronica’s ancestor? But then Veronica starts experiencing strange things on her book tour, like a bouquet of flowers that didn’t come from her husband and a creepy little girl in a 19th-century dress in the hotel elevator. So… maybe Veronica gets sent back in time?
In fact, it’s neither of those things. Directed and written by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, Antebellum comes with a plot twist that you probably will see coming after a certain point, but it no doubt makes the first third of the movie all the more horrific in retrospect.
What is the Antebellum plot twist?
Are you sure you really want to know? OK, here it goes: The entire movie takes place in the present-day. Monáe’s character, Veronica, was not sent back into time, nor was she remembering the pain of her ancestors—she was kidnapped. She, along with many others, was being held prisoner at a Civil War reenactment site, where a bunch of deranged, racist white people played out their slave-owner fantasies. This becomes clear when the “plantation owner” (played by Eric Lange) takes a hushed call on his cell phone, which he keeps tucked in a leather bag attached to his horse. Pretty messed up stuff!
What is the Antebellum ending, explained?
Once the twist is revealed, the Antebellum ending hardly needs to be explained—it’s pretty straight forward. After another woman at the plantation (played by Kiersey Clemons) takes her own life, Veronica decides to escape. She overhears the “owner” on his cell phone, and hatches a plan to steal it. And she does, with the help of another kidnapped man, played by Tongayi Chirisa. They are nearly caught by two “soldiers” (Jack Huston and Robert Aramayo), but, after a scuffle, manage to get the cell phone back. But unfortunately, cell service is patchy, and Veronica can’t use the phone’s location function unless she can unlock it. And the only way to unlock it is via facial recognition technology. In other words, they need the owner’s face. Thanks a lot, Apple!
They are able to subdue the owner, and Veronica is able to call her husband (Marque Richardson) and send him her location. Unfortunately, Chirisa’s character is killed in the process. But Veronica isn’t done exacting her revenge. She wraps the owner’s body in a confederate flag, and drags him to the oven where murdered “slaves” had been burned. When two more “soldiers” confront her, she tricks them into climbing into the oven by screaming for help, then burns them alive.
Veronica escapes on horseback, but not before she faces off with one last villain: Elizabeth, played by Jena Malone. We learn here that the “owner” is Elizabeth’s father, and that he targeted Veronica, despite the fact that she was a prominent public figure, because of her takedown of a racist politician on national TV. Veronica manages to kill Elizabeth with a noose and finally rides to freedom. She rides through a Civil War reenactment war zone, and then, just in case you didn’t get it, she rides past a sign that reads: “Antebellum: Louisiana’s Premier Civil War Reenactment Park.” People are milling about, enjoying the park as a tourist attraction. It doesn’t get much more clear than that!
At the very end of the movie, we see the police arrive at the park. Over the credits, we see the FBI march onto the grounds of the plantation, and a bulldozer knock over the park sign. The movie ends.
So there you have it! In retrospect, the first 40 minutes of the movie makes slightly more sense—like the fact that Clemons’ character seemed to recognize Veronica when she arrived on the plantation. It’s because Veronica was a famous scholar this whole time. Now, if only we had gotten to see all the monsters who participated in this horrific make-believe scenario voluntarily get exposed on national TV. Let’s pray none of them got book deals.
New York Post
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