A teenage outcast falls for a reanimated corpse in Lisa Frankenstein. Set in 1989, Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton) is a shy teenager still reeling from her mother's murder. Lisa's father Dale (Joe Chrest) has since remarried the incredibly cruel nurse Janet (Carla Gugino), though her daughter Taffy (Liza Soberano) tries to get Lisa to come out of her shell. While at a party to try and score with her crush Michael Trent (Henry Eikenberry), Lisa ends up being drugged and sexually assaulted and she ends up crying at the grave of a Victorian man, wishing she was with him. After the grave is struck by lightning, the man rises as an undead Creature (Cole Sprouse), who helps Lisa gain confidence, while also getting revenge against those who wronged her.
Lisa Frankenstein Synopsis
Lisa Frankenstein is a romantic horror-comedy and the feature directorial debut of Zelda Williams, the daughter of the late Robin Williams. The film was written and produced by Diablo Cody (Juno, Tully). Lisa Frankenstein is reportedly set within the same universe as Cody's 2009 horror film Jennifer's Body, a film which has developed a cult following in recent years.
Lisa Frankenstein stars Kathryn Newton (Freaky, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) as the titular Lisa, who has recently moved into the house of her cruel stepmother Janet, who would rather just commit her to a psychiatric ward. Despite being encouraged by her stepsister Taffy to open up, Lisa ends much of her time in and old abandoned graveyard, pining over the grave of an deceased Victorian man. When the man, played by Riverdale‘s Cole Sprouse, reanimates after being struck by lightning, he ends up being Lisa's main confidant, as well as a means of getting bloody revenge against those who have wronged Lisa.
My Thoughts on Lisa Frankenstein
After winning an Oscar for her debut feature Juno, the first of three collaborations with director Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody followed up that success by teaming with director Karyn Kusama for the feminist horror film Jennifer's Body, a film I criticized at the time for having a plot that was maybe a little too similar to the Canadian coming-of-age horror classic Ginger Snaps. Fifteen years later, Jennifer's Body has become a cult classic of its own and Diablo Cody has finally returned to the horror realm with Lisa Frankenstein, even setting the film within the same universe.
As the film's producer, Diablo Cody assembled a predominantly female crew for Lisa Frankenstein, which includes bringing on Zelda Williams as director. Best known as the daughter of the late Robin Williams, Zelda previously followed her father's footsteps into acting, while also having some short film and music video directorial credits. With much debate and criticism in recent years about “NepoBabies,” it can be argued that taking the directorial role for Lisa Frankenstein was an opportunity for Zelda Williams to escape from her father's shadow and find her voice.
From an aesthetic standpoint, Lisa Frankenstein feels quite inspired by the films of Tim Burton, particularly Edward Scissorhands. The film also incorporates the 1980s time period in a macabre fashion, with Lisa adopting a style of dress in the second half of the film, which can best be described as “Goth Madonna.” Lisa Frankenstein also features a memorable 1980s soundtrack, with REO Speedwagon's “Keep on Loving You” being featured quite prominently.
While Lisa Frankenstein is predominantly a teen romantic comedy, the film still has a dark horror edge to it, particularly in the second half. With the help of the Creature, Lisa ends up murdering people who have wronged her and using their body parts to repair the missing appendages of the Creature, with Lisa using a malfunctioning tanning bed to provide the electricity required. With each repair job, the Creature looks more alive, allowing Cole Sprouse to wear less makeup and be more expressive with his performance.
Lisa Frankenstein continues the rising star trajectory for Kathryn Newton, starring in her second horror-comedy in recent years, after a star-making turn in 2020's Freaky. Whether it's playing the introverted outcast from early in the film to the more confident vixen in the second half, Newton shows quite a bit of range throughout the film. Altogether, Lisa Frankenstein ends up being a very macabre, and very 1980s, romantic horror-comedy.