Love and Necromancy in ‘The Angry Black Girl & Her Monster’ And ‘Birth/Rebirth’


Love is horror. It is a powerful and universal force that can inspire change, growth, or devastation and destruction. It can be a sweet dream or a never-ending violent nightmare. There are even songs about how it is sometimes both, simultaneously. Yet, we as humans have no interest in living without it no matter how many times we proclaim we do. As bell hooks states in her book All About Love, “We still hope that love will prevail. We still believe in love’s promise.” And what could be more loving than necromancy? Part death work, part love potion, bringing someone back to life is a magic that is always rooted in love. Love in the face of the other powerful and universal force; death. 

Last year two films were circulating in the horror world that examined love through necromancy. The Angry Black Girl & Her Monster and Birth/Rebirth centered on women and women of color as mad scientists. These contemporary necromancers leverage racial and gender bias, systemic and interpersonal, to push science past its limits and by extension, themselves. They steal bodies, they steal equipment, they take lives, they give lives, all in the name of love. And no one stops them because no one believes in them. Their crimes against nature go unpunished simply because no one was even concerned with what they were doing. That these modern necromancers can go so unchecked is a critique of the lack of support and respect for the innovations of women. After all, you rarely hear a woman being referred to as a visionary unless she’s dead. 

Also Read: ‘The Angry Black Girl And Her Monster’ Is A Chilling and Unique Take On A Classic Tale [SXSW 2023]

So it’s of no surprise that a woman would be the mad scientist, obsessed with defeating death to protect and save all those that she holds close to her heart. In The Angry Black Girl & Her Monster, the protagonist, Vicaria, steals the bodies of victims of gun violence in her community in order to bring back her brother; also a victim of gun violence. She does not pull any punches about her intentions to “cure death” and states as much in her science class where she is then on the receiving end of classroom violence from her teacher and school security.

This scene resonated with me as a student who was often silenced or harassed by teachers for ‘being assertive’, asking questions, and doing well while being Black (tsk, tsk, tsk). Vicaria is able to move forward with her plan uninterrupted (except for the racism and sexism!), and throughout the film, I became increasingly afraid of her success. It does a great job of balancing a love and tenderness for Vicaria and a fear of what she is capable of. She is a good person but by the end, I wondered if her family might have been safer without her. 

Also Read: ‘Birth/Rebirth’ Actor Judy Reyes On Frankenstein and ‘Saltburn’

Birth/Rebirth was a Sundance favorite exploring a mother’s love. Our two necromancers are women who would never have socialized if not for a tragedy. When Celie’s daughter dies, it is Rose who steals her body from the morgue where she works, to continue her work of reanimating the dead. Celie, a nurse in the same hospital, discovers Rose and her experiments but only after her daughter has been brought back to life. From here it is a descent into love and devotion as the women do whatever it takes to keep the child alive. They cross line after line of human decency and the end leaves the women, and you, with an open road to the darkest parts of love. 

In both The Angry Black Girl & Her Monster and Birth/Rebirth sexism and racism are present for our necromancers. They are overlooked, overworked, underpaid, harassed, and most of all, stretched thin. We meet our protagonists at their breaking points due to micro and macro aggressions, and both films articulate this through gorgeous cinematography and nuanced acting. The necromancers respond to these biases with a hypervigilance common among women and in particular, women of color. This is why #softgirl is making the rounds as Black and Brown women advocate for rest, ease, protection, tenderness, and respect for femininity. Under a biased system, women of color have had all of this stripped from them and their feminity attacked directly through medical, state, and interpersonal violence.

Also Read: ‘The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster’ Director and Cast on Crafting a New Kind of Creature [SXSW 2023 Interview]

Watching these films I reflected on recent events with successful women of color and how people have responded. From Ava DuVernay speaking on the abysmal financial support for her film Origin, to the open support for the man who shot Megan Thee Stallion, I am reminded that no matter what our humanity is negotiable; our innovation is suspect. When your imagination is the only thing that can protect you from continued attacks on your dignity, why not imagine death-defying acts? Why not go against the laws of the universe? I mean, who’s looking?

The Angry Black Girl & Her Monster and Birth/Rebirth explore a different type of recklessness. They are not about young brilliant men, professionals ahead of their time, flexing their intellect and bending nature to their will (cue lightening). These films drag you by the collar down the road of those who everyone counts on but nobody checks on. Their recklessness is allowed to grow and thrive due to our unshakeable faith that they will always do the right thing no matter how we treat them. These New Necromancers seem to be in pursuit of invincibility to combine with their hypervigilance because when your body is a site of violence being invincible is the goal. If you have the power to make sure that no one you love can die, then you never let anyone down. That means you never fail. 

Also Read: ‘birth/rebirth’ Director Laura Moss On Their Childhood Obsession With Mary Shelley

I somehow always end up talking about the anxiety of failing with the women in my life. I’m finding that this is shared by what appears to be the entire gender (shocker). America Ferrara had to do a monologue about it in the Barbie movie! We cannot stress enough how much this is stressing us out and the result is a hypervigilance that deteriorates our financial, medical, spiritual, and emotional health. Combine this with a science-magic that spits in the face of death and you have a deadly combination that appeals to a woman’s darkest desires; to be untouchable, un-fuck-with-able, unstoppable, and feared. 

As women and women-centered stories enter horror spaces, we see more narratives that explore this particular type of anxiety. Using the mad scientist archetype, The Angry Black Girl & Her Monster and Birth/Rebirth films delve into the obsessive and self-destructive nature that living under racist and sexist systems can foster. They are honest explorations into what happens if we keep pushing women to the edge and are exceptional additions to the horror canon because they do what the genre does best: show us that what we fear most is what lies within us. 



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