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Lisa Frankenstein Review: A Hysterical, Gory, Vibrant Homage

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No matter where you are in the world, there’s only a slight chance that you didn’t previously hear the famous line: “It’s alive!”. Mary Shelley, a young writer, who loved penning horror stories to pass the time, was the one to conceive Frankenstein and his monster. Years later, we’ve seen movies and television shows honoring the characters created by Shelley. Lisa Frankenstein directed by Zelda Williams is one of the most recent retellings of the classic story. Robin Williams’ daughter, who previously directed Kappa Kappa Die and appeared in a variety of supporting roles on television, bestows upon us an uproarious, frenzied, and oh-so-entertaining story. With Diablo Cody’s marvelous and vivid script (Jennifer’s Body, United States of Tara), Lisa Frankenstein transforms into an 80s-themed, ingenious horror comedy, perfect for those who ever felt like an outsider.

Lisa Frankenstein Review

Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton, Freaky) is your ordinary adolescent, with one exception: the high schooler’s favorite pastime is hanging out at the abandoned cemetery known as Bachelor’s Grove. As soon as Lisa is in the presence of those who already passed, the girl forgets about her mother’s tragic death, her absent-minded father, and, most crucially, her artificially sweet, vicious, gin-loving stepmother, Janet (Carla Gugino, The Fall of the House of Usher). One grave, especially, wakes Lisa’s fuzzy feelings—a derelict resting place of a lovely man (Cole Sprouse from Riverdale), whose bust sadly overlooks the overgrown cemetery.

Despite Taffy’s (Liza Soberano, Alone/Together) efforts to help her stepsister integrate at a new school, Lisa remains an outsider and, often, a laughingstock among her peers. But all changes one stormy night when Lisa accidentally reanimates the aforementioned Victorian-era cadaver and sets out to make him into the ideal guy.

It takes tremendous skill to successfully recreate a story that has been told for centuries, yet Williams and Cody accomplish so. Though not flawless and sometimes a bit messy, the film will speak to your nostalgic heart as the cast of Lisa Frankenstein dazzles you. Newton, who portrays Lisa, already demonstrated her aptitude for horror in Christopher Landon’s Freaky. The actor doesn’t disappoint this time around either. As the titular character, Newton expertly captures the awkwardness of a teenage girl who must start over—at a new school, with new friends, and even a new family. However, the most amazing aspect is Lisa’s transition into her confident self. The girl becomes her true, morbid self while on the search to get her Creature a few new body parts, and it manifests itself in the way she begins carrying herself in school. Plus, her new and improved, invariably dark-colored wardrobe simply looks amazing on her, whether it’s a dark hat with a flowy dress or a black, lace dress.

Sprouse isn’t far behind Newton, frequently stealing the show as The Creature. Even though the actor from Riverdale and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody only has one (!) spoken moment, Sprouse is positively out-of-this-world, acting primarily through stiff gesticulations, facial expressions, or grunts. But his Creature is also memorable due to the makeup. Jonny Bullard, one of the key makeup and special effects artists, does an outstanding job of changing the actor into a dirt-covered, smelling corpse that gradually morphs into a young gentleman with mismatched body parts.

The supporting cast is just as strong as the main pair, particularly Soberano and Gugino. The characters portraying a mother and daughter duo, are opposed. While Soberano plays a kindhearted Taffy, Gugino plays a rather antagonistic role. Still, even when the actor plays a wicked stepmother, we can’t help but admire Janet’s colorful leotards and other 1980s-inspired clothes, while she strolls around her pristine house, listening to a portable cassette player.

Although Lisa Frankenstein isn’t perfect and occasionally loses its rhythm, it’s an excellent choice for anyone who enjoys the retellings of Frankenstein’s works, the 80s’ unforgettable vibe, and a good gothic comedy. Furthermore, this coming-of-age film pays homage to the era when “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon was one of the most popular songs. An entire film is packed with comparable nostalgic bangers that you won’t want to stop listening to post-watching. And if it’s not the cast or the soundtrack that does it, might it be a vibrant set and costume design? The entire set design and the supporting cast costumes provide a stimulating juxtaposition of Lisa and The Creature. While everything around them is upbeat and eccentric, they are morbid, dark, and gloomy—a truly perfect duet.

As befits a decent horror comedy, Lisa Frankenstein contains several amusing scenes, but one specific moment containing a vibrator is the film’s standout. However, in addition to the comedic moments, Williams and Cody ensure that the film is also quite bloody. Libs and other body parts get slashed while The Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)” plays in the background. One thing is certain: this gem of a film won’t soon be forgotten.

The film by Williams is entertaining not only for fans of the genre but also for anyone feeling nostalgic for the 1980s or intrigued by one of the Universal Classic Monsters. Lisa Frankenstein is weird, naughty, bloody, and extremely entertaining. You’ll feel for Lisa, despise Janet, and be captivated by Cole Sprouse’s Creature.

Grade: B+

Lisa Frankenstein

Lisa Frankenstein

In 1989, a misunderstood teenager has a high school crush — who just happens to be a handsome corpse! After a set of playfully horrific circumstances bring him back to life, the two embark on a murderous journey to find love, happiness…and a few missing body parts along the way.

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