By MICHAEL GINGOLD
The horror-drama puts a fresh spin on an oft-told genre classic.
Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN has been inspiring filmmakers for over a century now, and it’s proof of the story’s durability that they’re still finding new ways to adapt and homage it. The latest example is THE ANGRY BLACK GIRL AND HER MONSTER, which has its world premiere tomorrow at the SXSW Film Festival. RUE MORGUE got the chance to chat with the movie’s creator and star for a preview of their updated story of science and obsession.
Written and directed by Bomani J. Story, THE ANGRY BLACK GIRL AND HER MONSTER (which will see wider release later this year from RLJE Films and Shudder) stars Laya DeLeon Hayes as Vicaria, who lost her mother to neighborhood violence when she was just 8 years old. Now 17, she has come to believe that death is a disease, and that therefore it can be cured–which she sets out to prove, employing her vast scientific knowledge, after her brother Chris is also murdered. It’s a combination of the making-a-monster scenario with family concerns, and Story elaborates on his influences:
“I read FRANKENSTEIN when I was fresh out of high school, and it horrified me and gave me anxiety,” he recalls. “After I read it, I knew I had to adapt it, mixed with the inspiration of having two older sisters who mentored me all my life, and still mentor me now. I just had to tell their stories, as well as the FRANKENSTEIN story, in a new context. And then also, a lot of the themes in the novel are still relevant today, and that’s a testament to Mary Shelley’s genius, you know? Even 200 years after the fact, it’s still resonating.”
Hayes, on the other hand, wasn’t intimately familiar with the book before being cast as ANGRY BLACK GIRL’s lead. “Of course, when I was younger, I knew the story of FRANKENSTEIN, and I think I did the dance when I was in elementary school [laughs], but I had never read Mary Shelley’s novel until Bomani cast me as Vicaria. I got that feeling while reading it of, “Oh, so that’s why it’s a classic!” and it immediately became one of my favorite books.”
The very presence of a teenage girl as the lead in this iteration of the tale is both unique and meaningful, since Shelley herself was 18 when she began writing FRANKENSTEIN. Story notes, however, that his protagonist’s youth may not be such a stretch from the original text. “Honestly, I think Victor Frankenstein starts off the novel as a teenager, because he eventually goes to college during the story. And given Mary Shelley’s very young age when she wrote it, she was obviously a genius, because she’s basically the mother of science fiction/horror. She was a very early pioneer of that, and so this reinterpretation just made sense to me. It’s my way to put some respect on Mary Shelley’s name.”
“I had never even thought of a 17-year-old girl being at the center of something like this,” Hayes says, “and then being a person of a color as well was definitely a big part of me wanting to take on the role, and to be able to play Vicaria. And again, being at the center of a classic tale with this modern spin, and to work with Bomani, who has this brilliant mind and these incredible ideas, were even more reasons why I wanted to be part of the film.”
Look for more RM coverage of THE ANGRY BLACK GIRL AND HER MONSTER as it gets closer to release!