Janelle Monáe plays two roles in this film; as Eden, she is a slave working on a cotton plantation with barely enough fight in her left to plot or risk another escape, and as Vanessa she is a modern day author and speaker encouraging African Americans to shed their coping personas in favour of true healing and strength.
In fact, many of the actors are playing dual roles, appearing in both universes, a subtle and direct way to measure the progress that’s been made, and the ways in which it’s stagnated. The thing is, though, it begins to appear that these two universes are in some way connected.
This is a horror film that draws its horror from reality rather than from blood and guts and gore. It’s a bit of an allegory, like Jordan Peele’s Get Out. There’s very little you can say about this movie that’s not spoilery, so I’ll stick with this:
Did I like it? Yes I did. I liked the concept. I liked the execution. I liked Janelle Monáe’s performance very much. I like the slow unfurling of truth. I liked the terrible connection to our own present day. I liked the dawning of horror and the unsettling ending.
It didn’t impress all critics the way it did me. Some felt it heavy handed, which is true. It lacks the finesse of a script by Peele. Others felt the brutal images didn’t add up to nearly enough, but I say give me a movie that bites off more than it can chew any day over a film that doesn’t dare to bite at all.