Review: ‘The Angry Black Girl And Her Monster’

Race And Rage Collide In Bomani J. Story's Brilliant, Gruesome Monster Movie

To be Black in America is to be angry. The problems afflicting this country are amplified when dealing with communities of color, and coping with the daily prejudices that are part of being Black is enough to drive anyone over the edge. Bomani J. Story’s brilliant, audacious feature debut The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster explores this rage through the lens of gun violence, using Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as the inspiration to explore life, death, and science as a modern-day monster movie.

In a breakout performance, Laya DeLeon Hayes plays 17-year-old Vicaria. At her young age she’s already seen the worst life has to offer. Gun violence plagues her neighborhood every day, and has already taken the life of her mother, and recently her beloved brother. An intellectual genius, Vicaria is too smart to sit back and let this just happen. She begins working out a new theory. Death is not a symptom, but the disease itself. And like all diseases, it can be cured. Understandably, this leads Vicaria down some pretty morbid roads, and her teachers at school are none-too-happy about it. After challenging an obtuse science teacher about it, Vicaria is reprimanded, only for her father (Chad L. Coleman), a recovering addict trying to do right by his daughter, leap to her defense in a crowd-pleasing moment.

Vicaria is a fascinating character. Remember the rage Shuri felt over T’challa’s death in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? Well, imagine that but in a much more realistic context. Nobody knows how smart she is more than Vicaria herself, and even though she can come off as arrogant, she’s unafraid to put her intellect on display. That’s refreshing for a Black female character in a genre movie like this. But she is also more than just her anger and brains; Vicaria is lonely, stressed, devastated, and confident. Her father works two jobs just to get by, and has his own personal demons to contend with, so he isn’t always around to comfort her. While the rest of her neighborhood misunderstands her, like her neighbor Jada (Amani Summer Boyles), or seek to abuse her intellect like the local drug dealer Kango (Denzel Whitaker), Vicaria has another idea in mind. She will stop the violence for good.

In true Frankenstein fashion, Vicaria decides to bring her brother Chris back. She will play God, she will defeat death. She earns her nickname “The Mad Scientist”, reanimating dead flesh in grisly fashion. Credit to Story and DP Daphne Qin Wu for their unflinching portrayal of the gore and violence, adding another layer of realism to this fantastical, Gothic tale. Lo and behold, Vicaria does exactly what she set her mind to. He walks the earth again…but as a vengeful, imperfect monster who goes on a killing spree when night falls. Interestingly, there’s still love there. The resurrected sibling isn’t a mindless beast; he seeks to defend his sister from the traumas she faces in the light of day. That family connection, so strong as to truly overcome death, is at the heart of this gruesome but heartwarming story.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster explores contemporary social issues, but it is definitely a monster movie. The jump scares are plentiful, and the killings are ghastly enough to ward off anyone with a weak stomach. It’s perfectly a Shudder release, and should be absolutely what fans of that network are looking for when it arrives later this month. Using genre to explore topics specific to people of color was a thing long before Jordan Peele came along, but the door has really swung open since Get Out redefined just how to do it. I put Bomani J. Story’s The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster in that same category, even though it hits a bit on-the-nose at times. One thing it avoids doing is becoming too bogged down in delivering lessons. Story is smart enough to realize that the audience is also pretty smart, and can figure out the messaging without being beaten over the head with it.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster will open in theaters on June 9th, then hit Shudder and other streaming outlets on June 23rd. Check out our interview with Bomani J. Story here.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster
Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-the-angry-black-girl-and-her-monsterTo be Black in America is to be angry. The problems afflicting this country are amplified when dealing with communities of color, and coping with the daily prejudices that are part of being Black is enough to drive anyone over the edge. Bomani J....