The feature debut of writer-director Bomani J. Story, The Angry Black Girl And Her Monster is a film best described as a modern take on the classic Frankenstein tale. That's not all it is though, far from it, and there are some elements here that take it further away from the tale we all know (and love). I'm not sure diverging from the inspiring source material is for the best, however, but I'll get back to that point soon enough.
Laya DeLeon Hayes is a smart young girl named Vicaria who happens to be obsessed with death. She sees it as a disease, which means it can be cured. Having lost both her mother and her brother in different circumstances, and seeing her father (Donald, played by Chad L. Coleman) struggle with drug addiction, Vicaria is determined to fight back at the presence that has overshadowed her life for many years. If she can bring back one person, her brother (Chris, played by Edem Atsu-Swanzy), then maybe she can help a lot of other people around her, people living in an area where death can snatch you away at any time, whether it's via disease, drugs, dangerous criminals, or the police.
While flawed, this is a film that gets a lot right. It's easy to see how Vicaria stays motivated, and easy to see why any scientific breakthrough could be even more immediately impactful to her, and those around her, than it would be to, for example, a privileged scientist who has spent many years motivated by his own ego. Vicaria has some brash confidence, shown in some early scenes that brilliantly show the disparity between herself and a teacher who won't engage in discussion with an exceptionally bright pupil, but there's always the feeling that she's not working to cover herself in any glory. It's an emotional thing, but also a practical one, considering the world she lives in.
Story takes the bones of the well-known genre tale and uses a great central character, and a setting far removed from how we usually see this thing done, to give it a fresh spin without making it feel as if it is working too hard to be "too cool for school". The middle section, where one or two elements are mixed in that seem to push the story more into the supernatural than the horror-tinged sci-fi of the central idea, might falter, but the beginning and end are both strong enough to make up for that. Taken on its own, a scene in which a young girl seems to speak with the voice of a very different personality is creepy and effective, but it doesn't work as part of the unfolding tale, and feels like a half-baked idea that Story couldn't bring himself to remove once he had the rest of the film comfortably locked down.
The cast are uniformly excellent, from Coleman to Denzel Whitaker, Reilly Brooke Stith to Keith Holliday, and Amani Summer to Beth Felice (who isn't in it long, but makes a very strong impression as the teacher who cannot deal with Vicaria in her classroom), but this film belongs to Hayes, who delivers the kind of performance so great that you immediately speculate on whatever good things should already be lying ahead of them. Perfectly portraying the drive and intelligence of her character, Hayes is also brilliant at showing someone constantly weighing up numerous scenarios that are equally infused by her head and her heart.
This is easily worth your time, and bodes well for the future of both the writer-director and the star. I appreciate the attempt to mix the old and new, even if it doesn't work so well in that middle section, and I think most open-minded horror fans will get something from this if they give it an hour and a half of their time.
If you have enjoyed this, or any other, review on the blog then do
consider the following ways to show your appreciation. A
subscription/follow costs nothing.
It also costs nothing to like/subscribe to the YouTube channel attached to the podcast I am part of - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCErkxBO0xds5qd_rhjFgDmA
Or you may have a couple of quid to throw at me, in Ko-fi form - https://ko-fi.com/kevinmatthews
Or Amazon is nice at this time of year - https://www.amazon.co.uk/hz/wishlist/ls/Y1ZUCB13HLJD?ref_=wl_share