ComingSoon spoke with The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster director Bomani J. Story and leading actress Laya DeLeon Hayes about the movie, which had its world premiere at SXSW today. It is a modern adaptation of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.
“Vicaria is a brilliant teenager who believes death is a disease that can be cured. After the brutal and sudden murder of her brother, she embarks on a dangerous journey to bring him back to life. Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster thematically challenges our ideas of life and death. Bomani J. Story, the film’s writer and director, crafts a thrilling tale about a family that, despite the terrors of systemic pressure, will survive and be reborn again.”
Tudor Leonte: Bomani, what does it mean to you to have The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster at SXSW?
Bomani J. Story: It feels fantastic ’cause it’s been a journey getting this script to the screen. It’s been a few years I’ve had this story in my pocket, so to finally get it at such an incredible festival like SXSW is amazing. I’ve never been there, I’ve never had a film there, so the world premiere and first time are just overwhelming.
Laya, death is a pretty universal subject. This idea that death is a disease is so interesting. What grabbed you the most about the script?
Laya DeLeon Hayes: Kind of what you said, death is a disease. It catches the eye. It also makes your ears perk up when you hear it. What really drew me to the script was the script. I remember reading it and just falling in love with Vicaria. I have this thing where I kind of get obsessed with people who are obsessed with other things, and her fascination with death and the way that her mind worked was really interesting to me. After obviously auditioning with Bomani and then having a couple of meetings with him and even being able to dig deeper into Vicaria, I knew that this was a role that I wanted to take on. It’s really rare to get 17-year-old black characters who are as complex and layered as I feel Vicaria is. I was really looking forward to bringing that to the big screen.
You delivered quite a performance, if I may. Bomani, it’s your feature debut, but it’s very confidently shot. You’re not shying away from anything here. Can you speak to the mindset you went into this with?
Story: As far as the visual language is concerned, there’s a lot of filmmakers that I love and look up to, Aronofsky being one of ’em. The ‘death is a disease’ line is a pretty specific homage to him and one of my favorite movies from him, The Fountain. He’s a very courageous filmmaker who makes you look at stuff, right? He’s not afraid of that. I love that. Then, just like obvious horror movies that are just very brave. The big ones for me with this one were Black Christmas, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween. These are just like visually confident movies that I was watching and looking at and breaking down, and that gave me the language to put this together or the way that I envisioned it, whatever you wanna call it. That was kind of my way kind of looking at it and capturing the humanity of the situation. I think just trying to capture the rawness as much as I can.
Laya, some of the research your character does is so nasty. How was it interacting with corpses and filming those scenes?
Hayes: Oh gosh, it was gross. It was very nasty! I think I had to have like a mental talk with myself, especially before those days of filming where she’s working on her brother Chris. Also, our wonderful visual effects person, Christina, had made Bomani’s head as one of the corpses too, so it was crazy. I was looking at Bomani who was directing me, and then also at the same time at his head on a platter. It was very crazy for me. I honestly was just very excited to dig into horror. I wasn’t a huge fan of horror before doing this movie. I just wanted to do a horror movie as an actor and as an artist, and I thought it would be a very big challenge for me. That day was probably one of the most challenging. I really had to like get myself mentally prepared for it.