‘The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster’ Review: Am I Not Shunned

Aaron Neuwirth reviews The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, a strong horror film and social thriller that has taken inspiration from Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."
User Rating: 8

For all the adaptations of famous novels that arrive, it’s great to see a creative mind find an ambitious use for the material that understands the foundation and explores other paths. Realizing a famous story for the screen can certainly work, but with The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, writer/director Bomani J. Story has taken his love for Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and gone in an exciting direction fit for both a horror film and the realm of social thrillers. Featuring strong performances and a lot of solid innovation to deliver plenty from a modest budget, this blend of ideas does plenty to assess the nature of brilliance, the fear of the unknown, and the impact of Black trauma.

Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes) is a gifted seventeen-year-old girl living in an area full of inner-city violence. She’s already lost her mother to gang violence, and now her brother, Chris (Edem Atsu-Swanzy), has been shot. In an attempt to defy known science, Vicaria uses a machine she built to resurrect her brother. However, with many unforetold variables, Chris is not what he once was. He’s something far more violent.

Using the lens of genre to engage with social commentary is nothing new for horror. Still, it stands to reason that this sort of awareness gets a jolt to the system every now and then. The major success that was Jordan Peele’s Get Out certainly got studios talking, even if the voices of filmmakers from all over have always been out there. Suffice it to say, whatever help that could come from the success of a social thriller spearheaded by a Black filmmaker is welcome when it leads to even more creative enterprises from a diverse crowd of writers and directors entering the scene.

That speaks plenty to what is accomplished here. Given the specificity of “Frankenstein,” seeing how The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster weaves in and out of that story is fun to watch, but it becomes quite evident that it’s just a jumping-off point. Director Story clearly has other things on his mind when it comes to the nature of gangs, drugs, and police brutality. As a result, the real success comes from the ways in which this film can blend those relevant themes with horror.

It works pretty well, as Story and his team have clearly studied up on what it takes to create real tension and fear. The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is not full of jump scares, but it does know how to capitalize on uncertainty. From a visceral perspective, the joy is seeing where this dread comes from. While a literal monster and gore come into play, things are just as tense when considering a scene with Vicaria facing off in a verbal argument against her (white) teacher. Further scenes make the audience anxious just by knowing other bad elements are around, namely Kango (Denzel Whitaker), a local drug dealer, and his various henchmen.

See Also: ‘Nope’ Review: Jordan Peele’s Close Encounter Delivers a Horse of a Different Color

Being in on Vicaria’s secret that involves a lab and an uncontrollable monster, this film ably builds dread on multiple sides, as we don’t want her to come under harm based on her environment. We also don’t necessarily want the creature to attack either. Of course, this creature was born through violence and death, so why expect it not to behave as it does? It will be shunned, no doubt, and not without reason. Still, as an embodiment of the ideas this movie wants to tackle, I can appreciate how Story made this unnatural being more than just an elaborate makeup design.

With that in mind, the creature is used sparingly. We hardly get time to really look at it, and that’s all for the better. Still, when it comes to making those kinds of choices to preserve a sense of the film’s reality, it means making up for it in other ways. That’s where good writing and well-placed characters come in. Vicaria interacts with others, including her friends and family, but most notably her father, Donald (Chad L. Coleman). Here’s a character struggling to be there for his family just as much as he’s fighting to stay away from the drugs that once infected his life.

Some films with ambitious sights have to grapple with the number of ideas they want to explore. What I can admire about The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is the way it feels sure to keep the intentions centered on Vicaria’s journey yet allows her world to be just big enough to incorporate all of the aspects that tie back into what she’s up against through the various characters. And with all that said, I feel there’s something notable about the young age of our main character.

Thanks to systemic issues that trouble characters in these positions, Vicaria is woven into a world where she will have to fight to keep away from various elements that could drag her down. Again, seeing a film twist around the original Mary Shelley novel without completely breaking from what that story can represent makes for an exciting way to present the horror element, as it feels fitting to this cinematic world Vicaria is in.

At a time when the issues found in inner-city communities continue to recall what various forms of art have been addressing for decades, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is a welcome take on a classic story with those issues on its mind. As a feature directorial debut, Story presents a slickly-made horror flick that feels assured in what it’s after based on character and whatever could be done to elicit thrills. That’s plenty for a film that dares to explore a seemingly abominable creation through the lens of societal injustice.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster arrives in select theaters on June 9, 2023, and will be released on VOD and digital on June 23.

8
Great
Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Firstshowing.net, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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