Picture of Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Pop culture camp references and a solid lead perform can’t save Lisa Frankenstein

Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody teams up with debuting director Zelda Williams for the horror comedy Lisa Frankenstein from Focus Features. The film is set in 1989 and draws inspiration from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, published in 1818. The story revolves around a teenage goth girl named Lisa (played by Kathryn Newton), who reanimates a nameless corpse from the Victorian era (played by Cole Sprouse).

The creatives start the story with an innovative animated sequence. We are introduced to Lisa, who is in a cemetery, and soon, we meet her step-sister Taffy (played by Liza Soberano). Taffy’s mother, Janet (played by Carla Gugino), married Lisa’s father, Dale (played by Joe Chrest). Taffy convinces Lisa to attend a party where she hopes to get better acquainted with her crush, and Taffy reveals the reason behind her sister’s odd behavior. After an embarrassing incident at the party, Lisa wishes she were dead, and the power of movie magic brings a male corpse back to life. Through a series of macabre and humorous events, Lisa works towards transforming the reanimated corpse into the man of her dreams.

When I decided to watch Lisa Frankenstein for review, I had very little information about the movie. I was unaware that the film’s director was the talented and celebrated Zelda Williams, daughter of the legendary Robin Williams. Also, I only had the chance to watch a trailer after seeing the film. For the most part, the film begins decently, and Diablo Cody wanted to pay homage to the eighties teen classics Heathers and My Best Friend Is A Vampire.

Kathryn Newton fully taps into the teen angst required for the role and plays well against the other cast members. However, when Cole Sprouse’s character comes into play, the film picks up steam as his role is primarily dialogue-free and relies on physical comedy. Newton and Sprouse have commendable chemistry, and it saves the film. I must also credit the movie for using Jeffrey Osborne’s “On the Wings of Love” during one of the best scenes in the film.

In the second half of the movie, the character, played by Sprouse, transforms his personality and starts killing people to acquire their body parts. This shift in tone is intended to be comedic but doesn’t always work as intended. The violence portrayed in the movie is not always successful in generating the intended comedic effect and can appear gory and unsettling.

It’s evident that the director and the studio had different visions for the movie. The studio’s perspective ultimately prevailed, leading to a film that may not have been what the director originally intended. This pitfall is similar to Cody’s 2009 movie, Jennifer’s Body, where the marketing did not accurately portray the movie’s content, leading to a poor reception.

While Lisa Frankenstein has good moments, it may only be for some. Its gore and violent nature may not be enough unsettling for some die-hard horror fans, and its comedic tone may not work as intended for others.

Final Grade: C+

LISA FRANKENSTEIN will be released in theaters on Friday, February 9th.

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Pop culture camp references and a solid lead perform can’t save Lisa Frankenstein