Synopsis: Vicaria is a brilliant teenager who believes death is a disease that can be cured. After the brutal murder of her brother, she embarks on a dangerous journey to bring him back to life.
Starring: Laya DeLeon Hayes, Chad L. Coleman, and Denzel Whitaker
Director: Bomani J. Story
Where to Watch: In theaters and On-Demand
Date of Release: In select theaters on June 9th. On-Demand and streaming on June 23rd.
Length of Time: 140 mins
An Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is a powerful and thought-provoking movie exploring racial injustice and socioeconomic inequality. The movie tells the story of a young black girl struggling to navigate a world that often feels stacked against her. Despite her many challenges, she refuses to let her spirit be broken and instead finds solace in her studies and her pursuit of finding the cure for death…resurrection.
Laya DeLeon Hayes brilliantly plays Vicaria, a poster child for STEM in the Black community. She is not only brilliant but also confident and loves her family…qualities we want to see more of in Black youth. She shares a close bond with her father, Donald (played by Chad L. Coleman) who struggles with drug addiction after the loss of both his wife and son, Chris. What is so interesting about the dynamic of Donald and Vicaria’s relationship is that even though Donald struggles with addiction, Vicaria still supports her father and is not ashamed of him. After all, they both have an addiction; hers is simply science-focused.
Denzel Whitaker as the local drug dealer, Kango, is a character who is not reduced to just a lowly drug dealer. We see his character has more layers than he puts off. Only Whitaker could make this role work in this type of film. During an interview with director Bomani J. Story and actor Chad L. Coleman, we learn that Whitaker is one of the reasons some of the cast joined the project in the first place, including Coleman himself.
What makes An Angry Black Girl and Her Monster compelling is its unflinching honesty. The movie doesn’t shy away from complex topics, but instead dives headfirst into issues like police brutality, racial profiling, and poverty. Through its nuanced and thought-provoking storytelling, it encourages viewers to think critically about the systems of oppression in our society and consider how we can work together to bring about real change. I found the film intriguing because there is no real antagonist; like in the real world, for these characters there are only obstacles and their reactions based on their experiences.
The film also touches on how Black men view themselves and their mental health. This is artistically depicted in Donald’s transitions into Chris, his Frankenstein-type monster. This is one specific reason why I feel a connection to the film and believe it could be used as a discussion piece for many others who want to have the discussion but don’t know where to begin.
In addition to its powerful message, An Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is a wonderfully crafted movie. Its visual style is stunning with vibrant colors and intricate details that make each scene feel like a work of art. I applaud Costume Designer Cailey Breneman for the unique and creepy look of the monster, Chris, who is absolutly terrifying. Many gory horror films have cheap props and, instead of grossing out audiences, cause people to laugh or think “a 5-year old could do better”. That is not the case in this film, as the death scenes look convincingly real and can traumatize you if you are not a fan of gore. Story’s feature film debut is a success, lending him a promising future in the realm of not only horror but any genre into which he decides to venture.
Overall, An Angry Black Girl and Her Monster is a must-see movie that should be part of the cultural conversation. From the onset of the Black Lives Matter movement in July of 2013 up to recent events, this movie challenges us to take a hard look at our world and strive toward a better, more equitable future. I don’t expect all audiences to understand the film’s underlying messages and themes; however, I do expect the movie to spark more conversation about oppressed communities and discrimination…hopefully productive conversation that can lead to the further empowerment of Black communities nationwide.
“An Angry Black Girl and Her Monster” is making waves in the independent film world with its 94% Rotten Tomatoes score. In this exclusive interview, Taji Mag sat down with director Bomani J. Story and veteran actor Chad L. Coleman to discuss the inspiration for the film, the creative process, and their aspirations for the future of Black Cinema in the horror genre.
Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): This is a fascinating film. I think of it as a horror concept film. Bomani, how did you come up with the idea?
Bomani J. Story (BJS): It started with the literature. I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and was just floored by it. It gave me an anxiety attack. I loved it. After that, I knew I needed to do something with it because so much was left on the floor. I wanted to do something with it mixed with the muse of my two older sisters. It’s like I wanted to capture them and have them be an homage to it. That’s what spurred this story.
DDF: Chad, how did you become involved with this project?
Chad L. Coleman (CLC): Oh, I got a call about it from my agent. Then I found out that Denzel Whitaker would be a part of it. So I called him to vet out the director because I wasn’t familiar with Bomani J. Story. Mm-hmm. Once I found that information out and got more details, I knew it was going to be dope. To hear it from somebody I respect, like Denzel, it was a no-brainer.
DDF: What was the process of creating and casting the Vicaria character played by Laya DeLeon Hayes?
BJS: As I mentioned before, it started with my older sisters. They were both my first contact with intelligence, you know? It’s like you don’t want to listen to your fucking parents say anything. The older sisters are old enough for you to respect and young enough for you to admire. So they took me under their wing. So it was just capturing my thoughts on them, how they move, and things of that nature. As for the casting, I mean, as soon as you see her (Laya DeLeon Hayes) audition, you just immediately [know]… it couldn’t be anyone else. I didn’t want to see anybody else after that. She was just fantastic.
DDF: In the film, Vicaria mentions the women who inspire her. This includes Valerie Thomas (Data Scientist), Alice H. Parker (Inventor), and Marie Maynard Daly (Biochemist). How did you decide which historical figures to choose?
BJS: To me, it was more of an exploration of how people are like, “I look up to certain people to do amazing things”; like notable inventors who created something incredible, started a movement, or did something unprecedented. There are many people one can place in this category, but for me, these were names that spoke to me.
DDF: Tell me about the development of Donald (Vicaria’s father), played by Chad L. Coleman.
BJS: People can relate to that character. Wanting to protect your daughter and holding onto [personal] demons is something everyone faces on their own. I’m looking at my dad and how he raised us, things like that are what I could pull from.
DDF: Chris (the monster) has a unique relationship with his daughter Jada. Can you explain their relationship? After all, Chris is now an undead monster.
BJS: I want to leave it up to the audience to interpret. You know what I mean? But I think Jada (Chris’ daughter) will look at things differently than an older person. As a child, the world is still so new to you. You’ll be more interested in things and look at life from a very innocent viewpoint.
DDF: Chad, what approach did you take to bring to life the Donald character?
CLC: My life being a father and having a brother who faced many challenges in terms of substance abuse, but mainly being a father. Grieving for my Black sisters and brothers in marginalized places resonated deeply. The level of hurt, pain, and violence… the magnitude it has on the family. I think I was just excited that this dude’s exploration of it would not be candy-coated, that he went deep, and it had the resonance of The Wire for me, you know? I was excited that he could play on a classic like Frankenstein. When you think of Frankenstein, you don’t think of people of color. You don’t see the story’s relevance to us, and Bomani put that thing together amazingly. This will be an instant classic.
DDF: In the film, Donald struggles with drug addiction. Can you dive into this aspect of the character a bit?
CLC: He’s dealing with pain, feeling paralyzed, and feeling as if he isn’t completely able to protect his children. He’s unable to change his community and be that leader, the leader of his family in the way he wishes he could. So he had to inevitably self-medicate after losing the love of his wife and son. The family’s decimation carried a huge effect on this man, and it was essential to show that vulnerability.
DDF: This film resembles some of the obstacles Black men face today. Can you give your thoughts on this topic?
BJS: Particularly for our situation, systematic pressure is multifaceted; it rears itself in different ways. Sometimes I like to think of it as a three-headed hydra. Whether it’s prejudice, classism, or sexism, they’re always just jumping and playing off each other. It’s like once you get rid of being impoverished, now we’re dealing with fucking prejudice, then sexism. When we get out of one, now you’ve got to deal with the other, you know? They’re constantly all just picking at you. That’s the type of shit we deal with.
DDF: Chris’ physical character is akin to that of Frankenstein. How were you able to create the look for this monster?
BJS: Yeah. With the book, one of the things that spoke to me was its themes of prejudice, how the monster is treated before he even opens his mouth. Today, that’s something, unfortunately, that we still have to face. People may not do it outright, and it’s slightly more subtle. It’s like another microaggression, they don’t humanize you or recognize you as human. The story was evolved around that.
DDF: Is there a film out there right now that you love, specifically a horror movie?
BJS: Yeah, I mean there’s been a lot of, like, this new, I don’t want to call it new age, but this wave of horror that’s been happening right now. I’ve been a big fan of films like Hereditary and The Wig. Then, you know, even further back to films like Black Swan, which I think is a horror film but not recognized. I feel like it introduced a new era of horror. I’m obsessed with the movie Pearl. Oh my gosh! That film is underrated, man. It’s a beautiful film! Yeah, it should have been nominated. Mia Goth’s performance is just insane. She’s fantastic!
CLC: I’m an old-school guy. I like Carrie, The Thing, Aliens, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Shining.
DDF: Chad, is there a horror film you would like to reimagine?
CLC: I know it’s not considered a horror film, but I would recreate The Elephant Man. I would also like to play The Elephant Man because he doesn’t have to be a particular age. I think there’s so much in that story; just like An Angry Black Girl and Her Monster deals with so many social and political issues, so could The Elephant Man.
DDF: What advice would you give to Black men?
CLC: We’ve got to be able to love ourselves, and we’ve got to take personal responsibility for the vulnerability. And it’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s okay to go to therapy, and it’s okay to show love to one another. It does not make us weak. We’re going to be more robust when we stand up and bond with each other and understand that we are not each other’s enemy. It’s time for us to come together and support one another. It’s not just because I can rap or play basketball or I’m the most muscular guy. It’s because we got true love for each other. Stop judging each other, and stop bullying each other. Don’t be mad at me because I’m as smart as you. You know, I’m not judging you because you have challenges. Brothers of color need to come together. I tell my friends, we gotta stop worrying about somebody perceiving us a certain way. We need to look out for each other. It isn’t going to stop if we don’t stop it.
DDF: Could you compare Tyreese, your character from The Walking Dead, and Donald in how they survive their environments?
CLC: I think the similarities in the characters are the love of family and vulnerability. I believe [the concept of] a man who’s unable to be vulnerable is problematic for me, even though it may appear to be a sense of strength to society. How do you relate to your family? If you’re like a dictator, everybody’s scared of you. That’s not the most influential leader. So, I appreciate Donald doing his best and Tyreese doing the same with his sister. If you can’t model any level of vulnerability to the women in your life, that would be a problem.
DDF: What do you think people will get out of this film?
BJS: I hope they get a little bit of intensity. You know, I hope they’re able to think a little bit. My greatest hope would be that people walk out of the theater with more than they thought they would get.
Catch An Angry Black Girl and Her Monster in theaters on June 9th.