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New Escapist Column! On “Antebellum” and What Makes a Good Twist…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday. Since Antebellum has been out for two weeks now, it seemed fair to discuss the movie’s twist – and, in particular, what it is that makes a “good” twist and how such a twist serves the movie of which it is part.

Arguably, any movie with a twist has to be two movies: the movie that the audience watches for the first time blind, and the one that they rewatch knowing the twist. As such, for a movie with a twist to be truly good, it has to succeed as two (occasionally wildly) different movies. That’s a lot of pressure, and illustrates why truly great twists are so rare and why they are often elevated to the status of cinematic legend. However, a bad twist can ultimately undercut both of the movies that it needs to be, making the failure even more noticeable.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Burning unease.

New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “Enola Holmes, WandaVision and Antebellum Spoilers”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and Bob Chipman for the fifth episode, primarily discussing Enola Holmes, the first trailer for WandaVision and a spoiler-filled discussion Antebellum.

You can listen to the episode here, back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.

Non-Review Review: Antebellum

Antebellum never seems entirely sure whether it wants to be a biting social commentary or a pulpy genre exercise.

To be clear, this is a false dichotomy. One of the most interesting aspects of horror is how frequently it can satisfy both of those objectives. Get Out is perhaps the most obvious recent example of this, and it is telling that (like so many modern horrors) Antebellum markets itself as “from the producers of Get Out.” However, this has always been a feature of horror, as demonstrated by the films of directors like Wes Craven and John Carpenter. Antebellum shouldn’t have to choose between being socially relevant and being an effective horror, but it insists on doing so.

Shining some light on the matter.

There is a good movie buried somewhere in Antebellum. It is very clear that writers and directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz have a good idea that resonates in the current moment. Indeed, Antebellum hammers that point pretty heavily. It opens with a quote from William Faulkner, reminding audiences that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.” In case the audience doesn’t get how that applies to the movie’s set-up, a character repeats it about forty minutes into the runtime. Antebellum has things to say, and is not shy about saying them.

However, what Antebellum is trying to say is muddled by a number of awkward structural choices. Antebellum is a film that is consciously built around a number of developments that are intended to wrong-foot the audience and catch them off-guard, to invite the viewer to ask questions about what is happening and why, and maybe even add some compelling gif-able content for the film’s marketing. This structuring of Antebellum is wrong-headed on a number of levels, but most profoundly in the way that it reduces the movie’s biting thesis to a cheap narrative hook.

Burning unease.

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New Podcast! The Escapist Movie Podcast – “The Devil All the Time, Antebellum, Mandalorian, and Pushbacks”

The Escapist have launched a movie podcast, and I was thrilled to join Jack Packard and Bob Chipman for the fourth episode, primarily discussing The Devil All the Time, Antebellum, the trailer for the second season of The Mandalorian, and the changes to the release schedule after the releases of TENET and Mulan.

You can listen to the episode here, back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.