That so much of what is understood as modern horror today can be traced back to Mary Shelley and her groundbreaking 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, A Modern Prometheus solidifies what over the years has been the far too often overlooked central role of women in the genre’s history. While Shelley and her famous tale have been reimagined everywhere from James Whale’s Universal classic from 1931 starring Boris Karloff in his signature role to Frank Henenlotter’s Frankenhooker (1990), in recent years a number of significant reworkings of Frankenstein have demonstrated just how enduring and endlessly open to interpretation the film is.
Alongside recent significant adaptations such as Larry Fessenden’s Depraved (2019) and Nora Unkel’s A Nightmare Wakes (2020) we find Bomani J. Story’s The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster pushing its way to the top of the pile when it comes to urgent, refreshing retakes on Frankenstein that remind us of just how persistent Shelley’s original story is. The film follows Vicaria (Laya DeLeon), a seventeen-year-old science whiz who has turned the pain from losing both her mother and brother to gun violence into an obsession with what she calls “curing death”. Hidden away in an abandoned building near her home, Vicaria’s self-taught experiments in reanimation lead to the activation of the monster of the film’s title, made mostly from the remains of her beloved older brother, Chris. But Chris has his own debts to settle, and as Vicaria gets increasingly drawn into the dark world of drug dealing and gang violence, her relationship to Chris and to the rest of her family becomes increasingly more complex.
Full of a wholly original spirit of life and energy, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is a jaw-dropper. The electrifying combination of Story’s screenplay and direction with the career-making central performance of DeLeon in her feature film debut breathes new life into a centuries-old story, rendering Shelley’s vision as contemporary and as urgent today as it ever was. Retold through the lens of Vicaria and her family’s experience of police brutality and drug culture, as dark as The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster gets – and, at times, it gets very dark indeed – the film is simultaneously filled with an extraordinary vision of hope. Fiery, passionate and deeply intelligent, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster takes Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and creates something altogether its own.