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From The Boston Underground Film Festival: 'The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster' Review

Dir Bomani J. Story - 4 Stars

Laya DeLeon Hayes in a still from "The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster."
Laya DeLeon Hayes in a still from "The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster." By Courtesy of Boston Underground Film Festival
By Xander D. Patton, Crimson Staff Writer

Released on March 11, “The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster” is an explosively powerful feature length directorial debut from Bomani J. Story that turns the Mary Shelly classic novel “Frankenstein” on its head. Complicating the original tale by forcing the characters to exist in a world that automatically doesn’t accept them, this film redefines what a monster is for audiences.

Immediately, viewers of “The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster” are introduced to the film’s main theme as it opens to a still shot of a dead body. “Death is a disease” is whispered for viewers to ponder until the body is dragged away. Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes), the protagonist, then narrates about how death has slowly destroyed her family, killing her mother first, and then her brother. Now she lives in fear as her father, the only real family that she has left, has become addicted to drugs as an attempt to ease the suffering from losing the family members which he held so dear.

Vicaria, however, has other ideas for how to respond to this plague that has destroyed her family. She believes that death, like any other disease, can be cured, we just have yet to figure out how to cure it. She then assumes the role of Victor Frankenstein from the original classic, and works to reanimate the dead family and friends that she has lost, starting with her brother. Eventually, she succeeds, initially becoming full of elation at her achievement and the fact that what she loved has returned to her. Nonetheless, as she watches the husk of her dead brother murder those both deserving and undeserving, Vicaria must face the fact that perhaps she should not cheat death.

In “The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster,” there is a notable amount of consideration put into worldbuilding, whether through the physical sets or the cultural background of the setting. The neighborhood where Vicaria and her family and friends live is developed very early on in the film as a lively place full of a diverse range of characters. From innocent children chasing each other down the streets with water guns to drug dealers sending gang members on “assignments,” the complexity of the mise-en-scene in this film is clear from the opening of the film. Lines like “death comes quick around here” help to not only cement the prominence of the theme of death in the lives of the characters, but reveal how it is systemically ingrained in the setting of the movie. It redefines death as a result of the environment, rather than a result of individual action.

The delivery used for its social messaging is almost too on the nose. By the end of the film, it has clearly been conveyed that the conditioning of society frames Black men as monsters without giving them their due. Society assumes their nature to be monstrous rather than humane, although this is never true. While this messaging is beautiful and important to convey, narrative tropes of struggle are a bit belabored. This film’s relationship with the police as characters is important to note, as there are multiple scenes where — were it not for the superhuman abilities of Vicaria’s monster — a moment of police brutality would have occurred. This example is just one where, although this film heavily critiques the experiences of Black trauma that are ingrained into American systems, it does so by presenting additional trauma to audiences. In an attempt to prove that it is opposed to the systems that oppress Black Americans, it neglects the fact that the thematic messaging of this film already does this perfectly.

Ultimately, “The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster” takes an important stance on the role that grief can play upon the hearts of those unwilling to accept death because of the unfair circumstances that it almost always occurs in. It deals with a theme vital for audiences to walk home with and ponder: sometimes the odds of the world are stacked against you before you even enter the game. It validates the powerful feelings and the actions that are taken while experiencing those emotions, providing viewers with a beautiful narrative of a family working to find solace and rebirth after a great deal of worldly trauma.

—Staff writer Xander D. Patton can be reached at xander.patton@thecrimson.com

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