THE STORY – Vicaria is a brilliant teenager who believes death is a disease that can be cured. After the brutal and sudden murder of her brother, she embarks on a dangerous journey to bring him back to life. Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the dramatic thriller thematically challenges our ideas of life and death following a family that, despite the terrors of systemic pressure, will survive and be reborn together again.
THE CAST – Laya DeLeon Hayes, Denzel Whitaker, Chad L. Coleman, Reilly Brooke Stith, Keith Holliday, Amani Summer, Edem Atsu-Swanzy
THE TEAM – Bomani J. Story (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 91 Minutes
When it comes to horror, the same things have been scaring people for centuries. Reshuffling, restructuring, and retelling scary stories is nothing new in film, and “The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster” is the latest update of a classic. In this case, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” serves as the blueprint for writer-director Bomani J. Story to explore modern themes of violence and racial inequity. Its execution may not ultimately live up to the promise it sets forth in its beginning stages, but it’s an unquestionably well-made film that shows off the skills of a promising filmmaker.
The sci-fi-tinged horror parable follows Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes), an inordinately intelligent teenager who has a fascination with mortality. Specifically, she aims to cure what she looks at as the disease of death. After her older brother Chris (Edem Atsu-Swanzy) is murdered, she uses her intellect and skills to resurrect him, leading to frightening and unintentionally violent results.
With his debut feature, Story exhibits a keen visual eye. The more morbid, horrifying images that ramp up as the film moves along are nicely contrasted by its sleek style. Notably, the editing underlines this by using elegant slow-motion sequences during more patient moments and quick, visceral cuts when the blood and gore start flying. In fact, the elevated stylings paired with the nasty images call to mind the classic Gothic influences to which the film is clearly paying homage. Nima Fakhrara’s score is also a standout, emphasizing the more upsetting imagery and carrying that energy throughout the film.
While the film draws viewers in and keeps them enthralled with its visual and filmmaking choices, unfortunately, its narrative structure can’t quite keep in step. The movie’s Frankensteinian concept is clever and works well at first; the dangers and shortsightedness of the classic doctor’s experiments are well-translated when shifted to a brilliant but in-over-her-head teenage girl. But when her reanimated creation starts wreaking indiscriminate havoc on anything and anyone who gets in his way, the thematic purpose starts to get a bit lost. Still, as a tale of hubristic hope in the face of dire circumstances, it holds together in the general sense. It’s in the details that the narrative starts to get muddled.
As the main character Vicaria, Hayes displays an impressive ability to carry a film. She shows inherent confidence both as an actress and in the construction of her character, which is essential in getting the audience to believe that she’s truly wise beyond her years and capable of the scientific breakthroughs that she’s shown carrying out. She’s rarely off-screen, and she’s able to find a stupendous variety of reactions and tactics for her character to employ.
“The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster” is decidedly more brutal than terrifying. Jump scares and sudden loud noises are peppered throughout, and they often merely lead to disappointment when it’s shown what banal thing or moment is causing the disturbance. It is, however, the kind of smart, scary movie that inspires fear more from its implications and real-life parallels than from what it actually shows. And that’s the kind of reaction that sticks with viewers long after the end credits.