Arts & CultureArts Features

‘The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster’ Reimagines a Famed Tale

Film shot in Charlotte stars local actors, sparking hope for city's diminishing film industry

A screen showing playback of a scene from The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster in which a girl hugs her brother
Behind the scenes of ‘The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster.’ (Photo by Amani Summer)

“Death is a disease,” Vicaria whispers. “If death is a disease then there’s a cure … And I’m going to find it.”

The line comes from the opening of The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster. Written and directed by Bomani J. Story, the film was shot in Charlotte and stars a number of local actors.

As one of countless reimaginations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein — the famous American novel in which Dr. Frankenstein reanimates a corpse, creating Frankenstein’s monster — Story’s film is one of a kind, a fresh take that centers around a brilliant Black teen named Vicaria who tries to reanimate her brother following his violent death, instead creating a monster.

It opened in select theaters on June 9 to critical acclaim — it sits at 86% in both Audience Score and Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this writing — including a run at Independent Picture House that included a panel discussion with some of the local stars and crew members who helped bring the film to fruition.

Following the event at Charlotte’s only art house theater, Queen City Nerve spoke with a couple of the actors about the film and the significance of its plot — injecting an old tale with new energy and social relevance —  and location.

“I would say that it’s not a faithful 100% recreation of the source material, but that a lot of the themes and ideas that Mary Shelley planted in Frankenstein are still very relevant today,” said Jeremy DeCarlos, who plays Curtis in the movie. “Especially the idea of kind of playing God, in a sense. And I think that Bomani … very carefully picked and chose what he wanted to bring over from Mary Shelley.

“So I think that in the final products, it’s very interesting,” he continued. “It’s kind of a mix of staying faithful to the source material and being able to have enough mileage to reflect on some of the things that the African American community experiences today.”

The film offers viewers a chance to revisit Shelley’s story, but also experience how death affects community members who may be more familiar with violence than others.

“The story is definitely not just a twist because it’s set in the current day, but also because it’s set in the Black community,” said Tracie Frank, who plays Secoiya. “And so that adds, I think, even more of a twist to it. Vicaria is not just Black, she’s a Black girl. So she’s got that intersectionality thing happening.”

Bringing film back to Charlotte

Charlotte served as an East Coast hub for the film industry for years, with feature films ranging from The Color Purple (1985) and Nell (1995) to The Hunger Games (2012) and Talladega Nights (2006) shot in the Charlotte area. Production companies came to North Carolina thanks to generous incentives from the state government, a program that Republican Gov. Pat McCrory allowed to expire in 2014, diminishing the industry in our state.

“I think that there was a lot that was happening in Charlotte,” Frank said. “A lot of films were being shot in North Carolina and a lot of TV shows. And then the incentives died and went away and changed. And we had to watch a lot of our film and television industry sort of move four hours away. And that was hard and depressing, not just for the actors around here, but for a lot of the people who lost work as crew and everything.”

“To put it politely, I do believe that there is a lack of belief in North Carolina’s ability to generate an industry of film,” DeCarlos said. “It was a privilege to be a part of a production like this [for] several reasons, the main of which is that it brought film back to North Carolina, that this particular production company was very adamant about shooting this project in Charlotte to get our Charlotte feel. So I’m very happy to have participated in that way.”

To be clear, there have been other big-name projects filmed in Charlotte recently. Released in January 2023, the film adaptation of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret starring Rachel McAdams was filmed in Charlotte in 2021. SNL comedy trio Please Don’t Destroy spent months in Charlotte in late-2022 filming an as-yet-untitled movie produced by Judd Apatow, set to release on Peacock in November. TV shows such as Showtime’s Homeland and the Oprah Winfrey Network’s Delilah have also shot in Charlotte, signaling a potential comeback for the Queen City’s film industry.

Actors and crew sit on stage in front of a screen at Independence Picture House
A panel discussion following a screening of ‘The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster’ at Independent Picture House. (Photo by Taylor Montalto)

The COVID pandemic, of course, slowed that progress, but DeCarlos and Frank both remain optimistic about the industry’s future in Charlotte.

“To see something as cool as this come back, it’s exciting and encouraging,” Frank said. “It’s really cool to have that to be part of something so cool right here in Charlotte. It feels sort of like revisiting some of the greatness that we know we’re capable of.”

“Not only do I believe that this area can and is absolutely capable of sustaining a film industry, I am wholeheartedly behind that,” DeCarlos said. “But if we do not put up competitive numbers to actively attract productions to this area, then we will not see those productions.”

The monster in ‘The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster’

The unique relationship between Shelley’s original work and Story’s reimagination is an interesting one. To portray the story in a community that often experiences trauma and a sense of helplessness is not something many might have attempted to explore, which was an intentional departure from other adaptations, said DeCarlos.

“I think it allows for a more interesting transition into the African American community, as if we were to just do a historical recreation of Frankenstein,” he said. “A lot of people have seen that particular story, and I think the way that we have updated it for our particular time frame and the way that the story is kind of told from the African American perspective makes it something that a new audience would, I believe, find very interesting. So it’s a very fresh way to tell something very old.”

Frank similarly felt that the story’s design was meaningful and would force the audience to consider questions they may never have before.

“I love how it’s not just about some crazy doctor trying to bring someone back to life, but it’s a brilliant young girl who wants to bring someone back to life because she cares about that person,” she said. “It adds a whole different dimension to the story. It’s really cool to delve into the idea of what happens if you can reanimate a dead body, like, what could we do with that?

“But add to that that it happens in the ‘hood,” she continued. “It’s a little poor Black girl. Like poor Black people — Black people, period, but then she’s poor, but then it’s a girl. We’re not supposed to be able to do anything, and she has literally done the impossible. So how is that going to be taken by people who couldn’t do it? For example, white doctors with all the resources and everything that they would need — the labs, all that kind of stuff — and they can’t do it with all of their resources and with all of their shiny materials. But she did it in the ‘hood with some stuff she found and her brain.

“The story of bringing the dead back to life is really cool. But add all of that to it, and what does it look like? What does it even mean? How is it going to present itself? It’s a different story than if it’s a white man bringing somebody back to life. Instead of, ‘Oh, what an intrepid pioneer,’ now it’s, ‘Well, how dare she? Don’t mess with it.’ Depends on who’s doing it, right? And I think that that’s kind of sad, but it’s an interesting truth.”

There are metaphors throughout the film all the way down to the title, which Frank wants people to consider and try to understand on their own terms after they’ve watched the movie as compared to how they felt about it coming in. Hopefully, she said, that will allow audiences to consider that we’re all dealing with our own monsters.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster was released in select theaters on June 9 and is now available on various streaming platforms.

SUPPORT OUR WORK: Get better connected and become a member of Queen City Nerve to support local journalism for as little as $5 per month. Our community journalism helps inform you through a range of diverse voices.

Related Articles

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *