The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster

The world got its first Black take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1973, when the ironically named Prestige Pictures released Blackenstein (a.k.a. Black Frankenstein) into theaters. It was meant to capitalize on the success of Blacula, which came out the year before. The movie offered important representation for the era, but it was not - and never has been - recognized as a quality effort. The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster offers a much more compelling interpretation of Shelley’s tale from a Black perspective.

Teenage Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes) is a brilliant student, especially in science. Her family has been ripped apart after the gang-related murder of her brother Chris. His body, along with several others, has gone missing from the housing project where she lives. What nobody, including drug-addicted father Donald (Chad L. Coleman), knows is that she’s taken over an abandoned space and is attempting to rebuild and re-animate Chris. The process works, although what she brings to life responds to its confusion with violence. After Chris attacks the right-hand man of the resident drug dealer, Kango (Denzel Whitaker), Vicaria develops more problems than she can handle.

Writer/director Bomani J. Story, making his feature debut, starts with a relevant concept. Vicaria believes that death is a disease and that it has affected her family just as it has affected many others. Throughout the film, there is subtle commentary on the type of gang violence that has taken a toll on the Black community. A suggestion is present that such violence is indeed like a deadly virus that spreads to a tragic degree.

Running parallel to that is a theme of racism. Vicaria attends a predominantly white school. A teacher there tries to stifle her potential, seemingly threatened by the fact that her student knows as much about science as she does. Connecting the dots is not hard. In a society where racism can be institutional, limitations will be present, anger will rise, and violence will emerge from it.

Ironically, Vicaria’s attempt to “cure” death only leads to more death. While not a traditional make-you-jump horror movie, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster does contain several graphic kills. You can interpret Chris’s behavior a couple of different ways. Is he violent because he’s not quite human anymore and therefore doesn’t know better? Or does he harbor resentment over the manner of his death? Either way, plenty to think about can be found here.

A major factor in the movie’s success is the performance from Laya DeLeon Hayes (who, it’s interesting to note, voices the lead character on the Disney Channel’s popular animated show Doc McStuffins). She ably carries the film, conveying both Vicaria’s staggering intelligence and the sense of profound grief that drives her. Denzel Whitaker does strong supporting work as Kango, conveying the control he has over the housing project, yet also inferring that he has empathy for Vicaria, despite trying to force her to work for him.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster could have explored its heroine’s feelings about reanimating her brother more than it does. Nevertheless, it’s a well-acted, thoughtful picture that uses horror to address an important societal issue. Then, impressively, it offers hope at the end that Black families may see a day when the number of them torn apart by violence decreases.

out of four

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is unrated, but contains graphic violence, strong language, and drug content. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.