• Film

Q&A with Bomani J. Story: Writer, Director and Co-Producer of “The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster”

Premiering at this year’s South by Southwest festival, Bomani J. Story’s new film The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster isn’t exactly the easiest movie to summarize or categorize. In short, we follow young Black science wiz Vicaria (played by Laya DeLeon Hayes) as she dabbles in reanimation to right some of the wrongs of racialized urban rot. The film’s title does a lot of work in terms of playing with and questioning racial and horror film tropes, and the movie doesn’t disappoint in inciting new and nuanced conversations around trauma, anger, physical and mental illness, love, and gore.


We recently talked to Story over Zoom about his film, which hit theaters on June 9th.


Where are you joining us from today?

NoHo. [North Hollywood]

The beginning of the film reminds us of the Geto Boys’ seminal video, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” which was revolutionary and important at the time, but we didn’t really get a lot in terms of follow-up to that particular kind of Black horror – Black urban goth. Do you think that’s changing now?

To just Black horror in general?

Black horror in general, but that particular brand of urban terror.

Sure. I just think the scope of horror in general is opening up these days and I think we’re seeing a lot of different avenues for it. I think horror’s always been broad, but I feel like it definitely got into [a] mode for a second. …and now we’re seeing a lot of different varieties to it. But particularly with Black horror and things of that nature, I think that’s starting to show itself in different ways, which I think is awesome.

I feel like when we say Black horror it’s always Jordan Peele, and that kind of psychological horror. But now we may be entering this [Black] slasher era. Do you think there’s a reason why that’s happening right now?

We always had weird horror stuff in music videos. Michael Jackson’s Thriller… it’s like that was the only way we could get it because we’ve always been fans of it. But now I feel like a lot of us have come of age and are starting to utilize those influences. So, I feel like there’s going to be a lot of us coming out and just doing our own thing because that’s what we had and that’s what we’re going to be referencing and using these days.

There are times when this movie stops the heart, and it’s not as much the supernatural stuff as much as the everyday horrors of being Black – when the white teacher called security on Vicaria, or when the kids were running around playing with water guns. Of course, you see the police car and you’re thinking of Tamir Rice. Each of those instances obviously could have led to the murder of those children at the hands of authority. Did you do that on purpose? Was it intentional that a lot of the horror was actually just the day-to-day reality of these children?

Sure. Yeah. My favorite horror movies leave you with some kind of reality that makes you walk outside to think about things that scare you because it’s just like a ghost story or whatever, it might only go so far, right? Especially as an adult. I always think about Jaws and when you watch that, it’s like, of course, the shark is scary, but you leave the theater being like, “I’m not going to swim in oceans.”

You managed to metaphorically address the angry Black woman trope and the Black male monster trope in under two hours, which is remarkable because, obviously, you could write novels about those. And when you sit with the film, the title makes perfect sense. From a storytelling perspective, how did you manage to do that?

That’s a tough question to answer, honestly. And I’m glad that you’re picking up on these things. But I don’t know if there’s a textbook answer to try to be like, “Oh, I’m specifically doing X, Y, and Z,” it’s a math equation. When I’m writing and when I’m doing the filmmaking, it’s an emotional process. And I think these are elements of whether it’s my life, or my two big sister’s life that I grew up around, and just the stuff that’s around our dinner tables, discussions, and culture in general, it feeds into the writing. It’s part of the fuel. I think those two things, whether it’s the Black man as a monster or the angry Black woman, those topics are always in conversation with each other. They’re adjacent because we’re all raised in the same household if that makes sense. And it’s like we get penalized in a lot of the same senses. There’s differences, of course, there’s always going to be, but I feel like we are always in conversation with each other. So that’s the only way I can emotionally try to maneuver through that. But I couldn’t say I could give you a textbook answer for that. I wish I could. I wish I could tell myself.

It’s interesting that we’re only now seeing “mad” – in the old school sense, Black woman killers – geniuses represented on film. The vengeful Black woman makes so much more sense than the insane white male serial killer (as Black women have the worst life outcomes in most areas from poverty to domestic violence to pregnancy mortality rates, although we’re constantly reading that statistically, we’re the most educated demographic in the country) – which is our actual reality. Why do you think that is? Where are the Black female serial killers in real life and why is this now a thing that we are beginning to explore?

I think it’s a complicated answer that I don’t even have all the answers to. I can only suspect that more of our voices are being heard. It’s just like because there’s not a lot of us in the game, so a lot of us don’t get an opportunity to experiment and try things, because as soon as one person gets let in, then no one else is, so it’s like you’re only getting one perspective. And then if they see that that’s successful, then they’re only going to do that perspective for a long time, I suspect. But now we have a lot of different people coming in the game. I hope it’ll keep continuing to be more because I do believe by having a bunch of nuanced voices – because we’re not a monolith – I think we’re able to get different viewpoints. A lot of us have a lot of different stories within our culture. I would suspect that it’s a result of more of us being involved and more viewership being respected, particularly our viewership and how we view things, whether we don’t like something or not. So, our reaction is being respected, to a certain extent.

How do you classify the film? Do you see it as slasher or as zombie film or both?

Whatever you classify Frankenstein as is somewhere up in there. Some people like to call it sci-fi horror. I think it’s horror and drama. I think it’s a mixture of those things. When I read the book, it felt more like a traumatic drama than anything.

Who are your favorite filmmakers and your inspirations?

I love Billy Wilder and I love Aronofsky. Those are probably the two biggest ones that affected me the most when it comes to filmmaking. And then movies as far as growing up, it’s like Menace II Society and Boyz n the Hood, and Inkwell. My coming to filmmaking was a little bit of a journey, and growing up, these were the films that were just around, right? They’re just on. It’s just whether you like it or not. But it was a while before I was just like, “Oh yeah, I watched Menace II Society and Boyz n the Hood like 20 times?” So, I was just like, those are influences, whether I acknowledged it or not. Yeah, so I would say stuff like that. And The Fountain and Ace in the Hole by Billy Wilder I’m a huge fan of and love. Anything noir.

I think of Abbott Elementary as being one of the first times outside of maybe The Cosby Show, where Black kids were just allowed to be kids and we see some of that in the film. Was that a conscious decision on your part to show the humanity of Black children?

Really just writing them to the truest form that I can and portraying them to the truest form that I can and finding humanity is just a fundamental of what we as storytellers want to achieve. And of course, when making a movie with a full Black cast like this, capturing the humanity is always going to be crucial. So, I would say it’s a mixture of both of those things of intention and just trying to chase the fundamentals of storytelling. If you’re not humanizing your characters, there better be some kind of reason, you know? It’s like the best stories that I always identify with, that I love, are always trying to humanize the characters.

That’s a great way to put it because before you can dehumanize and zombify someone, you’d better humanize them. What do you hope people walk away from with this film?

I hope they are a little bit grossed out.