"The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster" stars Laya DeLeon Hayes, Denzel Whitaker, Chad L. Coleman, Reilly Brooke Stith, Keith Sean Holliday, Amani Summer Boyles, and Edem Atsu-Swanzy. Released on June 9, 2023, the film has a teenage girl resurrecting her dead brother with catastrophic results.
The film was written and directed by Bomani J. Story in his directorial debut. Story is known for writing the 2018 drama "Rock Steady Row" and the 2015 short film "Run". He also wrote and directed the short films "Hollow Tags" and "Mill Street". It is inspired by Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein. It hurts to see someone you love deeply die in a tragic accident, especially when it involves pointless violence. Instead of living their lives until the peaceful end, their lives abruptly end by those who can't act like civilized people for ten minutes. In such moments, we all wish to bring our loved ones back and reunite with those whose lives ended too soon. Unfortunately, like many other wishes, this dream is something we desire, but once we get what we want, it eventually comes back to bite us in the you-know-what. Frankenstein is an iconic monster classic involving the consequences of playing god that have been retold in many versions for over 200 years. This particular film I'm looking at today marks the latest to retell this terrifying tale with a modern makeover and several topics that hit closer to home. You know, because living in a world filled with stupidity and fear is just as bad as resurrecting the dead. Does it provide enough frights amid its commentary to revive the classic horror story for modern audiences? Let's find out.
The movie follows Vicaria (Hayes), a seventeen-year-old genius living with her father, Donald (Coleman). Sadly, her community is far from peaceful, with her family surrounded by pointless violence, police brutality, and drug abuse. Does any of that ring any bells? Vicaria lost her mother to the chaos, and now her brother Chris (Atsu-Swanzy) has become the latest victim of the ensuing violence thanks to local drug dealer Kango (Whitaker). This resulted in Vicaria striving to test her theory that death can be cured by bringing her brother back from the dead. She succeeded, but unfortunately, in a predictable fashion, Chris returned to life as a disfigured, hooded monster hungry for vengeance. With the revived Chris on the loose, Vicaria attempts to fix her mistake.
I honestly didn't expect myself to talk about this movie until now. The film's trailer looked interesting regarding the modern twist of the famous tale, and I knew Frankenstein through the references. However, I wasn't holding my breath that I would see it in theaters since movies like this usually play in smaller cinemas far away from me. Not to mention that I couldn't find the right moment to watch them. That is until I saw it's showing at my closest cinema and no other big movies are playing besides "Transformers". Sure, it's only playing during the evening, but so what? At least I got to see what the hype was about while supporting the work by a fresh new filmmaker. The question is whether or not it was worth my time.
The story in "The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster" is a modern-day twist on the Frankenstein story showcasing a teenage girl's obsession with death. Of course, her obsession and desire to revive her dead brother resulted in her creating a monster that was killing people. However, the film doesn't retell the narrative beat-by-beat. Instead, it used the book as inspiration to portray a grounded horror drama reflecting the African-American community and the relatable topics surrounding it, such as violence and death. More importantly, it showcases the main character, Vicaria, facing the consequences of resurrecting the dead while protecting her family. With the horror elements stacked with its relatable commentary, Bomani J. Story was tasked with finding a good balance between frightening its audiences and making them decipher the story's themes. While the result isn't perfect, the movie packs enough electricity in its system to keep itself from losing its life.
One of the reasons is the cast, with some of them delivering solid performances throughout the film. Laya DeLeon Hayes was known for playing Delilah in the recent "Equalizer" reboot series with Queen Latifah, which I still haven't watched, but my mother wanted to. The young actress went from being the daughter of a former CIA agent turned vigilante to becoming a young mad-scientist-like teenager seeking to accomplish the impossible. Hayes's captivating performance captured Vicaria's eagerness, attitude, and vulnerability when she realized her mistake. Vicaria is less of a protagonist since her quest to cure death resulted in her causing more deaths. Instead, Vicaria is an imperfect character who believes she's doing something right but is causing more harm to others and herself. Hayes handled that role almost perfectly, which is enough for me to see if she can acquire more roles like this soon. Denzel Whitaker and Chad L. Coleman were also decent as Kango and Donald, respectively. I would also credit Edem Atsu-Swanzy for his terrifyingly compelling role of Chris and the "creature".
Bomani J. Story has experience writing and directing projects regarding his short films. However, this movie is the first time he gets to express his filmmaking talents for a feature-length project, and it was definitely a feature debut to behold. I admired a few things from Story's direction, including his handling of its horror elements. "The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster" has a few genre elements that we may recognize from other horror movies, such as its jump scares, the gore, and the monster, which are more than enough to get teenagers into their seats. But they're handled in a way that's more authentically terrifying than cheaply annoying. Story's directorial style has a sense of dread and fright toward the violence and horror that's unnerving enough to hit closer to home, minus the disfigured creature. The filmmaker also gets extra points for relying on its impressive practical effects for the gore and makeup design for Chris's "creature form". Story may have a bright future for the horror genre based on how well he managed its usual tropes.
As for everything else, Story has the talent to properly represent the African-American community and the movie's themes regarding his script. Unfortunately, it's not without a couple of things that could've been improved to strengthen the writing. One of them is Vicaria's relationship with Chris. The movie starts with Chris already dead and Vicaria trying to bring him back via her hypothesis, only for her to realize he's not the same Chris she loved. If the film had found a way to incorporate more of this sibling relationship somewhere, it would've packed more of an emotional punch when Vicaria had to face her undead brother. Then, there's the ending, which surprisingly left me feeling more conflicted than satisfied. It's not as terrible as the conclusion in "The Turning", although I don't think anything can top that rotten excuse of an ending. However, it contradicts the message about death, leaving me to question whether it's deserving. Of course, that could be my fault for expecting something else or not understanding its meaning. It didn't deter my experience with the movie, but based on my expectations, it could've been something more unique than what it offered.
Overall, "The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster" is an electrifying debut from Bomani J. Story that provides a fresh, terrifying, and relatable approach to the iconic story. It's far from a perfect adaptation, as it's often hindered by its scientific setbacks, including its inability to flesh out its characters and themes more and its conflicting yet tragic conclusion. Nonetheless, it's a creepily engaging and suitably-directed horror film that'll make people think twice before resurrecting someone. With its decent cast, effective direction toward the horror elements, impressive practical effects, and an adequate, yet sometimes flawed, script, you don't need a mad scientist to tell you that the movie is another solid addition to this year's horror collection. So if you're in the mood for some thrills and frights amid its social relevance, the movie's worth checking out.