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Tapping into Black Horror Filmmaking with Bomani J. Story

Tapping into Black Horror Filmmaking with Bomani J. Story

If you watch horror films by peeking one eye out from underneath the covers, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster just might be the film for you. 

The new horror film, set to hit U.S. theaters on June 9, 2023, was written and directed by Bomani J. Story. The film’s promotional materials characterize it as, “…an essential piece of contemporary horror cinema that shows what happens when Black creators are given the space to tell their stories,” and it’s been creating a lot of buzz on the film festival circuit.

The film stars Laya DeLeon Hayes (The Equalizer) as Vicaria, 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.

BGN conducted a Zoom interview with Story about his award-winning film, how he got into horror, and the coming of a new age in Black storytelling.

How did you get your start in writing and filmmaking?

The thing that sent me on the path was in high school. I wanted home economics, but they put me in a multimedia class. Every semester they kept putting me in the multimedia class, and eventually I just climbed the ladder shooting videos and editing them. One night I was up really late editing videos, and my mom poked her head in. She asked, “Is this something you think you might want to do?” I was just like, “No, no, get out of here. I’m working.” [Laughs.]

As I started taking classes at my community college, I started learning more about the art of storytelling. Once I finished in junior college and transferred to USC, I started really learning a lot more because it was more concentrated about the art of storytelling and filmmaking. We watched a bunch of movies, and that’s where it just started to click. So, it was a process. 

Tell us about The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster.

This film is inspired by [Mary Shelley’s] Frankenstein, through the eyes of a teenage Black girl. It’s taking those themes, adapting them for the silver screen, and getting a new take on it. When I first read [Shelley’s] book, there was so much depth and material left in there that was not tapped into. The themes were so potent to me and felt so relevant to today that I wanted to tackle them and take a look at that. 

Your first film was a totally different genre. What interested you in tapping into horror?

I’ve always been into horror since I was young. My big sisters kind of traumatized me with [horror films]. They put them on when I was way too young for my mind to really be able to take it in — Leprechaun, Tales from the Hood, and Nightmare on Elm Street. For whatever reason, I took to it even though it terrified me. I remember I was in the theater with my aunt and uncle to see The Sixth Sense. I was so scared I couldn’t bear to watch it, but I didn’t want to leave when they asked me. It’s just always been an affinity of mine for some reason. 

With everything going on in the world, what motivated you to keep the villain and the monster within the Black community?

When it comes to the term “monster,” it really becomes a question of what makes a monster and why is he a monster. It was not necessarily a question of demonizing or turning someone within the community into the main villain. In monster movies, and especially in Frankenstein, it always becomes a question of what makes a monster and why. That was a more potent question versus demonizing someone within the community. What is making someone act this way? That was the lens that I was using when looking at this.

How do you feel about what’s happening with Black people in sci-fi and horror right now?

Honestly, I feel like we’re in a Harlem Renaissance of Black cinema. I’m looking forward to seeing this expansion of Black cinema, especially from me. I want to see us in a lot of different genres. I love science fiction. I love horror and fantasy. I love mysteries. I love all of these things. So, to see us exploring those options, I think it is fantastic. I want more. Black cinema has comedy and drama on lock, right? That’s not to say we shouldn’t make any more, but they are staples. 

There’s a couple of people that I’ve been watching. There’s a French director, Julia Ducournau; she did Raw and Titane, which were really awesome. Obviously, Get Out was an incredible piece of work. I loved Heredity.

What do you want people to feel after watching this film?

I want them to be grossed out and laugh. I want them to be moved emotionally in a lot of different ways, whether it’s suspense, disgust, fear. The film should be able to hit a bunch of different feelings. I hope that it’s able to make one think intellectually about things, make you leave with thoughts in your head about stuff. Those things are important. Also understanding the brilliance that comes from our community as well. I hope that it’s able to do all those things.

Get your tickets, your popcorn, and the hand of someone who makes you feel safe as you delve into the tale of a modern-day Frankenstein with The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, in theaters June 9, 2023.

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