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'LISA FRANKENSTEIN' REVIEW

BY BECCA JOHNSON MARCH 4, 2024
Lisa Frankenstein

Renowned for her last horror movie flopping at first but going on to receive cult status and finding it's fanbase years later (Jennifer's Body), writer Diablo Cody is finally back with a new addition to the genre. This time, we have an 80's comedy, centring on a relationship between misunderstood teen Lisa (Kathryn Newton) and a zombie credited as 'The Creature' (Cole Sprouse). If that wasn't enough to pique interest, the flick is a directorial feature debut from Zelda Williams, daughter of much-loved late comedy actor Robin Williams. With a funny script, mesmerising colourful visuals and an entire cast full of tremendous performances, Lisa Frankenstein is an 80's-inspired joy throughout, despite its clunky opening and lack of depth.


SYNOPSIS

A misunderstood teenager and a reanimated Victorian corpse embark on a murderous journey together to find love, happiness, and a few missing body parts.



REVIEW

The 80's aesthetic has become very prominent in film and TV, particularly the horror genre, over the last few years. So much so, that some are getting burnt out by it and seeing it as a gimmick. However, the visuals of Lisa Frankenstein are one of the films biggest triumphs. It doesn't go over the top with its furniture, themes or costuming, making it feel naturally 80's rather than forced. That being said, it is full to the brim with colour, big hair and dazzling neon's that make for a visually pleasing experience. The use of pinks and blues is glorious.


The soundtrack cleverly does the same thing; it incorporates some bangers, but doesn't throw in as much 80's pop culture as it can. Instead, carefully selecting some great tracks and uses them well. The film also shows restraint in its horror references; paying homage to the Universal Monsters films that it's based on, by throwing in some movie posters and imagery in the backgrounds but leaving it up to audiences to spot them. Horror fans will undoubtedly enjoy seeing what they can find hidden in the set-pieces, which too are absolutely stunning. From Lisa's bedroom to the spooky cemetery, everything looks fantastic.


Lisa Frankenstein

Kathryn Newton (Freaky) has solidified herself as a modern scream queen by now, and her turn in Lisa Frankenstein may just be one of her best. Lisa is an awkward, shy and slightly weird character that you can't help but love, and Newton plays it well. It would've been fun to see the script delve into this weirdness a little further, but Newton does perfectly well with what she's given. Many weren't sure what to expect from the casting of Cole Sprouse (Riverdale), but they needn't have worried. Giving a performance that solely relies on movement and physicality rather than words, he is mesmerising as reanimated love interest 'The Creature'. He emotes really well, and is often a great vessel for some humour to come through. In the step-sister role is Liza Soberano (Alone/Together), and she is so damn likeable. Despite her being a popular girl in school and a member of the cheerleading squad, the script does something different with her – she's actually a nice person. Looking out for her weird, picked-on step-sister and showing genuine love for her family, Taffy is a warm, fun side character to have along for the ride, and Soberano is effortless. Despite the incredible talent delivered by the three actors mentioned, it is undeniably Carla Gugino (The Haunting of Hill House) who takes the cake. Doing the absolute most with her minimal screen-time, Gugino delivers her hilarious yet cruel dialogue masterfully and steals the screen every-time she appears.


The storyline of a teen having a crush on a corpse really is as fun as it sounds, and the script does well with that premise. Never taking itself seriously, it's packed with jokes and does exactly what it says on the tin. Writer Diablo Cody is known for her witty humour, and although not every joke lands and is far from her funniest script, this is a blast. Incorporating familiar coming-of-age tropes, combining them nicely with a not-so-familiar love story to make something equally engaging and exciting. It's also simplistic in approach and easily digestible, delivering what's expected. That being said, the storyline is far from perfect. The film takes a long while to get going, and the ending is quite lacklustre – the middle section is fantastic, but its bookends leave a little to be desired. For a dark premise, it could've played around with it's horror themes a little better, and it had room for much more darkness even inside it's PG-13 age rating. There's some adult themes and blood splatters here and there, but it doesn't fully lean into its macabre nature as much as it should. This is light on horror, which may leave some feeling underwhelmed despite appealing to a younger audience. It's also pretty surface level with its themes, mentioning ideas such as grief and assault without exploring them.


Lisa Frankenstein

Many are claiming Lisa Frankenstein to be 'the best Tim Burton movie not directed by Tim Burton', and that's a fair statement. From the black-and-white animated opening sequence to the quirky characters and unique visuals, this feels reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands and the likes – in a good way. It borrows heavily from existing features without feeling derivative of them, which is quite an achievement. This is a love letter rather than a carbon copy. Despite the struggle to get its story going, finish things off perfectly and commit to its uber dark central premise, Lisa Frankenstein is a fun addition to the horror comedy sub-genre with its terrific performances, astounding visuals and fun nature. Zelda Williams shows flair in the director's chair, and as for Diablo Cody... time will tell whether this one gains the cult status it's likely to.


STAR RATING

Rating Lisa Frankenstein

LISA FRANKENSTEIN IS OUT NOW

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