Interview: Bomani J. Story Gives Life To ‘The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster’

Aaron Neuwirth speaks with Bomani J. Story, the director of The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, getting some understanding of where this film came from.
bomani j story

Bomani J. Story, writer/director of The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster

After premiering at South by Southwest this past March and gaining early buzz, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is hitting theaters on June 9, 2023, before its release on-demand and on streaming on June 23. This is the feature directorial debut of Bomani J. Story, who has taken his love for Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and delivered a horror film with a heavy slant toward addressing social issues. I had the chance to speak with Story about the development of the well-reviewed film and what it means to have the opportunity as a Black filmmaker to address relevant themes while still getting in on the fun of making a genre flick.

(Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.)

Aaron Neuwirth, We Live Entertainment: So, how are you doing?

Bomani J. Story, Writer/Director: I’m doing pretty good man. How about yourself?

WLE: I’m doing well. It’s a good week. Right?

Story: It’s a nervous week. Always worried about trying to find the audience, you know?

WLE: It’ll be good. I hope I can help to get some eyes on it for sure. So, I already know some of this. But I want to know – What’s the genesis of the story? Where did this come from?

Story: It came from the literature, you know, like, I read “Frankenstein” and loved it. And after I read the book, I knew I wanted to do something with it. I thought a lot of the themes resonated for today, and there was a lot of stuff in the book that I felt was left on the floor. So, I wanted to reinterpret that. And you mix that in with the fact that I have two older sisters, and they mentored me my whole life. I look up to them a lot. So, I wanted to pay homage to them. They were my muse.

WLE: And that would be part of why the film features a young black female as the lead character?

Story: 100% Yeah. Based off my sisters.

WLE: When did you decide on such a strong title for a film like this?

Story: Oh, yeah. I wish it was easy, but it was more of an emotional journey and a process. My titles come pretty late. I write the story first, and then the title usually comes to me after that. This one just came out of nowhere. It just kind of came to me. And, you know, it’s like, I wasn’t sure about it. But as I took it around, it started breathing a life of its own.

When I gave it to [Laya DeLeon Hayes, star of the film], she read it, and it started speaking to her a certain way. And then she started talking to me about it. And the same thing with [Riley Brooke Stith, co-star] and [Amani Summer Boyles, co-star]. They both had something to say about it. I also gave it to my sisters, and they were dope. They were good with it. So, it just kind of started having its own life. And that’s what let me know that I was on the right path with it.

WLE: Yeah, I look at the title, “The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster,” and I could see that go in two ways; fun ways. One’s like a comic book, right? “The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster.” You can see that in bold on the cover. The other is like it’s the title of a Black Giallo film. You know?

Story: Yeah. So crazy.

WLE: So, with a film like this, it’s obviously fitting into genre. Being your first feature film, did you always think genre would be the path to get in?

Story: Well, I can’t say I have some calculated plan. I didn’t really have a plan. I came to film pretty late. It wasn’t until I was probably around 18 was when I realized, “Oh, I should do film.” I wasn’t making films before that. I was involved with some sports documentary stuff, like doing highlight reels from my high school, but making short stories wasn’t something I was doing. And then, when I became a teen, I started getting a little bit interested in it when I went to community college. So, my only plan was like, “Oh, I should go to school to learn about it.”

Then I got into school to learn about it. I see. And I was like, “Well, I should probably make short films.” Because I was there to get my feet wet on the job. So, I started making short films. Eventually, I was like, “Well, I should probably make features.” So, I started writing my own features, and I was just writing what was interesting to me. So, I’ve always had a love of film, even before I knew I wanted to do movies. I’ve always had a love for dramas and genre movies. They always entertained me, and I loved them.

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WLE: So, here’s a silly question, as I’ve found different directors have different thoughts on this. Do you call your film a horror movie? Or do you assign it to another genre? Or is it just its own thing?

Story: I’m definitely thinking about the genre. While I’m writing it, you know, there are a lot of movies I can point to. For this movie, I’m utilizing tools that I liked from them, ones that inspired me. And I wanted to find ways to pay homage to them for what they did. I was definitely thinking about the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Black Christmas, and The Shining¸ Alien, etc. And it’s like, these are all horror movies to me. You know? So, the genre is something I’m definitely thinking about as I’m dealing with it.

WLE: That leads me to the other thing I want to get at. You’re making a horror film, but it clearly has ideas on its mind. You’ve referenced several movies, and most, if not all, have something else driving them under the surface, whether it’s obvious or not. Whether it’s Texas Chainsaw and Vietnam, or what have you. When you’re developing this movie, and obviously you have the thoughts in mind, would you consider it easier now because of a film like Get Out, which may not have been the first to do this but clearly jumpstarted the idea of filmmakers from a diverse crowd getting certain kinds of chances?

Story: Yeah, I mean, there’s no question that Get Out opened the door, right? Like, the success of Get Out has, you know, busted the door open for many different types of horror. As you said, the horror with social commentary has been around for a while. You can trace it back to that original Black Christmas, which has a pro-life/pro-choice debate happening in the middle of that movie. Or go back further with Night of Living Dead. Like, it’s been a thing that’s been around.

That said, I don’t think social commentary within horror has always been busted open as wide as it has. From my perspective, I don’t think anyone has opened it as wide as it has with the likes of Jordan Peele. He knocked the wall down for a lot of people to walk through, you know, so shout out to him.

angry black girl

Denzel Whitaker, Bomani J. Story, Laya DeLeon Hayes, and Chad L. Coleman at SXSW.

WLE: For sure. I try not to pitch it like, “Without him, it’d be impossible,” but it’s certainly inspiring to see how that movie was able to be a success. And therefore, we get other cool voices that we might not have heard from as loudly, which is not a bad thing whatsoever.

Switching gears, I know the film was shot in under 30 days?

Story: Yeah, about 20 days.

WLE: And I recall you lost a couple days due to weather issues and had to think on your feet and everything, but it all worked out. So, I imagine those aren’t the most pleasant experiences, but my question here is: In the midst of filming something in hot weather, on a limited budget, etc., what was the most fun aspect of making this movie?

Story: I mean, just being in the trenches with the people who care about the movie. Working with my actors was really fun. They were very involved, very receptive to everything, and just delivered such phenomenal work. Also fun – chillin’ with the crew. You know? The below-the-line crew. They were makings sure certain things happened. Not to give anything away, but there’s a shot reference to Taxi Driver that, under any other circumstance, wouldn’t be possible for a movie at this budget range. Still, they made it happen because they believed in the story. They believed in me and my cinematographer [Daphne Qin Wu].

Working with people, including my crew and my friends, with vision, and everyone doing their thing on it, I think was really, really inspiring and really fun to do. That can be challenging, but it becomes such a fun time when you have people in your corner.

Also – the gore. Working with gore is fun!

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.

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of 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 We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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