The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE ANGRY BLACK GIRL AND HER MONSTER | The Movie Waffler


The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster review
A genius teen brings her brother back from the dead with tragic consequences.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Bomani J. Story

Starring: Laya DeLeon Hayes, Denzel Whitaker, Chad Coleman, Reilly Brooke Stith, Keith Sean Holliday, Amani Summer, Edem Atsu-Swanz

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster poster

Victor Erice's 1973 fantasy drama The Spirit of the Beehive has become one of the biggest influences on recent genre cinema. Guillermo del Toro was perhaps the first to explicitly nod to Erice's film with Pan's Labyrinth, which went so far as to borrow its Spanish civil war setting along with its central theme of a child finding solace through their discovery of a "monster." Since then we've seen movies like A Monster Calls, Martyrs Lane, Slapface, Piggy and to some degree even the awful Halloween Ends all borrow The Spirit of the Beehive's template.

With his debut feature, writer/director Bomani J. Story offers another take on this idea, but takes things right back to Erice's influence, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster review

In many screen adaptations of Frankenstein, especially the Hammer films with Peter Cushing in the role, Victor Frankenstein is portrayed as a superior intellect frustrated by the world's inability to recognise his talent. Story has come up with the novel idea of transposing the character to a working class teenage African-American girl. Like her predecessor, Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes) is a genius whose talents are unappreciated in her community. At school she gets in trouble with a white teacher who views her willingness to debate scientific theories as a form of aggression. On her estate the local drug dealer, Kango (Denzel Whitaker), wants Vicaria to employ her skills to his chemistry set.

But physics and biology are Vicaria's specialties. She's been surrounded by death throughout her young life and now seeks to find a way to conquer mortality. She believes death is a disease and that she can find a cure through science.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster review

When her older brother Chris (Edem Atsu-Swanzy) is gunned down in a drug deal gone wrong, Vicaria steals his body and sets about bringing him back to life. It's here that the film's social realism begins to give way to fantasy, with Vicaria bringing Chris back to "life" through the classic montage of crackling electricity. Story assembles a clever sequence in which we see the house lights flash around Vicaria's estate as she works her mad science.

Chris comes back, but to quote a Frankenstein influenced Stephen King tale, sometimes dead is better. Looking like a cross between the hobo Michael Myers in Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 and a Rastafarian Leatherface, Chris stalks the estate at night, killing indiscriminately. This makes Vicaria a target for Kango, and puts her family in danger.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster review

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster shares many similarities with the recent Spanish thriller Piggy. In that movie a plus-size teenage girl manipulates a serial killer into targeting the girls who have made her life a misery, only to realise she's unleashed a monster that can't be controlled. Story's film treads a similar narrative path, but it never quite goes far enough. There are hints at the darkness within Vicaria - like a striking scene in which she watches intently as emergency workers try to resuscitate a young boy shot by a cop; the look in her eyes suggesting she might be hoping for the boy's demise so she can be the one to bring him back – but her turn from "mad scientist" to conscientious heroine is devoid of the sort of nuance found in classic angry anti-heroines like Sissy Spacek's Carrie White. Vicaria has earned the right to be angry, so it would have been nice for the film to indulge that anger. Why are we denied the satisfaction of seeing Chris take out the white racist teacher, for example?

Story's film becomes less interesting once its ambiguity is dismissed in its final act. Making Chris a one-note monster and reducing a young black man to a hulking killer would seem to miss the film's own point about how African-Americans are pigeon-holed. The movie really cops out with a coda that's so cheesy it plays like a tacked-on happy ending. Despite its title, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster perhaps isn't angry enough, but it provides enough jolts to spark new life into a classic tale.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster
 is on Shudder from September 25th.

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