Written by: Adam Vaughn | June 8th, 2023
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (Bomani J. Story, 2023) 3 out of 4 stars.
In his feature debut, director Bomani J. Story brings us a unique vision of Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein. The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster not only brings one of literature’s most terrifying creatures to life, but also manages to freshen the story from the unique perspective of an inner-city high-school student named Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes, Disney’s Doc McStuffins series). As Vicaria sets out, and inevitably succeeds, in bringing her brother Chris (Edem Atsu-Swanzy, Foresight) back from the dead after his murder, she soon learns that some ideas are better left un-attempted.
Thus is the story set in motion in a modern setting, against the backdrop of poverty, racial inequity, drug dealing/abuse, and the mourning of the families caught in the middle. The film’s attention to detail is an extremely strong element, with Hayes’ portrayal of a misunderstood Black girl with genius intelligence seeking to make her family whole again. Bomani Story captures the essence of Frankenstein in terms of horror conventions, scientific achievement, and the macabre tone of Shelley’s original novel. Whereas most versions rely on sticking close to the source material, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster takes the loose concept and adds immense perspective and imagery, and even manages to find a clever (if not convenient) conclusion to turn an otherwise tragic ending into a more hopeful note.
While Story’s film delivers its concept well, it also quickly loses momentum and becomes confused in its writing. Initially, it hits the viewer hard with its themes, with scenes such as Vicaria up against the city’s main drug dealer Kango (Denzel Whitaker, Alieu the Dreamer), and her interactions with a racist teacher, Ms. Kempe (Beth Felice). While very on-the-nose, this tone is essential to portraying Vicaria’s world and struggles, and leads to her inevitable creation of a monster.
As the chaos ensues, however, these themes fade away, and the film’s finale becomes more of a conventional Hollywood formula, with a final surprise for the audience. Certain ideas that were previously explored in more depth start to get thrown into the mix for brief periods before returning to the gore and violence. While his direction is mostly solid from start to finish, Bomani Story starts to lose the ability to balance both horror and progressive ideals.
Overall, however, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is an intense, gripping, and empowering experience, a terrific example of creative cinematic endeavors, and Story’s voice as a director truly shines through his visual details, character building, and the truth behind his choice of location and situation. While it may not be a perfect idea through and through, crisp mise-en-scène and an overall powerful cast of supporting characters make the film highly enjoyable. It’s full of culturally rich aesthetic and ideas that make it one of the most unique looks at gothic horror I have yet to witness.