Friday, June 09, 2023

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster

Monsters are like bad movies. Nobody intentionally sets out to make either one, but they happen anyway. In this case, Vicaria’s intentions are good. She wants to resurrect her older brother Chris, who was killed far too young. Of course, playing God always turns out to be an act of dangerous hubris in films, as is indeed the case in Bomani J. Story’s The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, which opens today in theaters.

According to Vicaria, she isn’t just trying to bring Chris back to life. Her true spiration is to cure death. If she could cure taxes too, that would be great. Obviously, she is aware of Mary Shelly’s
Frankenstein, because she labeled her lab journal “The Modern Prometheus.” Story also has seen a few Frankenstein films in his time, judging from the crackling electricity that powers her experiments and a pivotal line of third act dialogue that transparently echoes Bride of Frankenstein. Heck, maybe Vicaria’s surname is even Frankenstein. It is coyly never revealed, but we know it is unusual and sounds “German.”

Like every Frankenstein Monster, the re-animated Chris turns out to be far more violent and far less rational than Vicaria hoped. At least he has plenty of potential victims in their economically depressed neighborhood. There are the cops everybody hates and Kango’s drug gang, who prey on their human frailties. Sadly, Vicaria’s father has been one of their regular customers, since her mother was killed by a stray bullet.

In terms of style and tone,
Angry is somewhat akin Michael O’Shea’s The Transfiguration. Without question, Story emphasizes the socio-economic circumstances of the characters, but it is not as didactic as you might fear. True, Vicaria’s best friend Aisha is all-in for woke Columbus rants, but they sound as counter-productive as Vicaria’s experiments turn out to be.

Laya DeLeon Hayes is smartly engaging as Vicaria, while Denzel Whitaker makes Kango a surprisingly complex figure. However, Chad L. Coleman really deepens the film with his keenly sensitive portrayal of Donald.

Angry should lead viewers to draw parallels between Frankenstein monsters and revolutions (like those Aisha advocates). They invariably kill those their architects never intended. Despite its youthful characters, Angry is also surprisingly gory. It is definitely for grown-ups. Recommended for horror fans who dig Frankenstein riffs, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster opens today (6/9) at the IFC Center.