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Antebellum (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

I really wanted to see Antebellum when it came out, but I wasn’t frisky enough to head to the drive-in and the price tag on the rental for something I knew I’d probably be reviewing in a few short months was a bit high. Nonetheless, here it is and on a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray disc release nonetheless. Good things really come to those who wait. Lionsgate releases the film on November 3rd and its a surprisingly loaded with some quality bonus material (Feature length documentary) and Atmos sound. If you’re going to take it in at home, this is quite the way to be able to do so. The film has proven quite divisive, but trusted colleagues of mine have been on the minority end of it and loved the movie, so I’m optimistic going in. How’d it turn out? Well, you don’t usually find that out in the intro paragraph, but you’re not far from knowing. Its out now, and you can pre-order yourself a copy of this 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray edition of Antebellum by clicking the paid Amazon link following the review.

Film 

Successful author Veronica Henley (Janelle Monae) finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality that forces her to confront the past, present and future — before it’s too late.

Antebellum is quite the ride that I was not expecting. Yes, there were aspect of the film which I had mentally prepared a bit for, but the feature film debut from Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz really has a handle on what its doing and is consistently reminding you the viewer that you do not. Their movie is one that has a socially conscious message, a reflection on cinematic history and also loves movies and knows we’ve seen plenty of them before.

The directing duo take a glee in playing with how smart film buffs may think they are when taking in the film the first time. But, they also appreciate such an aspect of storytelling that they’ve also made the film quite rewarding for those returning to it, studying it and able to enjoy it on a new level once all the dust has cleared. There are layers to this story, its characters and even its settings. Clues have been scatter through props, decorative items, lines of dialogue and even songs featured in the film.

 It also plays smart on some different levels as well. The script knows different races and backgrounds will be coming to this movie. Its quite aware they are going to see things with multiple perspective and in varying lights. After listening to them speak about the film, there are clever touches that some of the audience is going to be struck off guard in parts, being handed a clue the rest may not understand yet. And it makes for a completely different experience depending on who you are. Sort of like having the multiple endings to the movie Clue, except depending on who you are, you’re not going to quite see or understand said different pieces.

One of the only things I was expecting from the film was a brutal display of Confederate slavery and some insightful/educational commentary for the modern world, which the film does offer. In what is a stroke of brilliance, Bush and Renz have take the fairytale Hollywood romantic look of that period in the United States through the lens of Gone With The Wind, but not so much turned it on its head, but showcased it with a blunt honesty of how things really were. In fact, this film opens right away with telling you this, in what is one of the most impressive sequences of the year that had me dumbfounded that this was the first feature film from the directing pair.

And what better way to tell the tale than with a strong cast led by the dynamic Janelle Monae. Holy crap is she a tour de-force in the film, showcase all sorts of powerful ability. Her journey has a unique narrative but once it culminates, you can help but be impressed with the work she puts in. We also find terrific supporting turns in the likes of lesser knowns like Tongayi Chirisa and Gabourey Sidibe. Jena Malone gets a pretty meaty role with which she gloriously chews scenery. And Eric Lange has a hell of a turn with a quite despicable villain.

Having quite loved the film, it makes it hard for me to understand how “not loved” it seems to have been. Perhaps this one will be rediscovered or find greater appreciation as its accessibility increases. Divisive films tend to age better more often than not as its quite possible some critics and audiences weren’t quite ready for it. This was a hell of a ride and an impressive display of feature film debut filmmaking for me. There is an easy spot for this on my favorites of 2020.

Video 

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail:  Antebellum arrives on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a pretty gorgeous and polished looking picture. It was shot digitally and is an upscaled digital 4K presentation. Nonetheless, the image is quite warm and bold in appearance. Things have a very colorful naturalism to them, feeling that its heightened by being a fictional film rather than documentary. As mentioned, they are going for a Gone With The Wind approach to the aesthetic and they pull it off in spades. Details and sharpness are very strong, and the film looks quite clean and rich in its 4K Ultra-HD glory. It is a nice step up in all aspects from the standard Blu-ray included in this release.

Depth:  The film has a really nice depth of field and showcases a great scale when on the plantation. There’s a nice pushback on interiors in the hotel hallways and the home in the early scenes. Character movement and camera movement is smooth, fluid and features no issues regarding distortions. Slow motion comes across quite beautifully!

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty deep and rich, crafting for some really genuine nighttime sequences as well as period accurate poorly lit interiors. Details on surfaces, hair and patterns on fabrics hold strong. No crushing issues witnessed on viewing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are quite striking and beautiful in the film, with a really good culmination of all the saturation and popping prowess on display in the opening sequence alone. Red is a color that really resonates and much of the HDR pops with good contrast in the darkened in nighttime sequences.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial textures, sweat beads, stubble, make-up lines, dried blood/dirt and more are clearly visible throughout and from any distance in frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), English Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: Antebellum doesn’t mess around and comes at you with a very nice, sufficient Atmos track to bring life to plantation and modern staples. This is a pretty well balanced mix in terms of how the score, vocals and effects operate in relation to one another, but its also got a decent and engaging loudness to it. Since I wasn’t able to see this in a theater, I appreciated this crafty and present mix for my first intake of the film.

Height: There are some nice touches from above, but mostly it plays accurate to what is needed to reflect onscreen and not try to flourish or go too far overboard.

Low-Frequency Extension:  Some really nice deep tones here with horses galloping, fired, gunshots, punches, struggles and nice bumps in the score.

Surround Sound Presentation: This has a nice, aware and fully 360 degree appreciative approach of what’s happening on screen. All speakers are present and either culminate together to roll sound or to add a unique flavor to the setting for a given seen. A nice cool ambiance in the calmer scenes is well done.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp with good actor diction captured and a nice presence in all environments.

Extras

Antebellum comes with the Blu-ray edition and a redeemable digital code.

The History In Front Of Us: Deconstructing Antebellum (HD, 1:07:06) – Told in 2-parts, this is a feature length and pretty extensive look at the film with a bit of a EPK type polish to it. Its quite informative, honest and shows just how impressive the film is.

A Hint of Horror: The Clues of Antebellum (HD, 6:13) – This focus on the level of detail, layering and easter eggs that help the film blossom and makes for even more fun upon rewatches.

Opening Antebellum (HD, 4:46) – This piece takes a look at how they pulled off the opening sequence of the film in pretty good detail, complete with references, on set footage and plenty of honest reflection.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 7:59) 

Theatrical Trailers (HD, 3:11)

Summary

Antebellum is a divisive film this year and I happily came down on the side of really loving it. And yes happily, isn’t the objective when approaching a film to enjoy it by the time the end credits roll? Lionsgate’s 4K Ultra-HD release of the film is about as complete a package for a modern film as one could ask for. It features a great audio and video presentation to go with a pretty wealthy batch of extras including a feature length documentary on making the film, 2 additional featurettes about aspects of it and then deleted scenes. For anyone purchasing, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth!

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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