I love monster films and I truly love Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I saw the trailer and was incredibly excited to see what this twist on the original story would bring. After watching the film, I found Kathryn Newton wacky, Cole Sprouse charismatic and the entire film was demented fun take on the original tale.
“Lisa Frankenstein” is a horror comedy film directed by Zelda Williams in her feature length directorial debut and written by Diablo Cody. The film tells the story of a misunderstood teenage Goth girl Lisa (Kathryn Newton). Lisa’s mother is dead and her father (Joe Chrest) has remarried, moving them in with her stepmother Janet (Carla Gugino) and stepsister Taffy (Liza Soberano). Taffy adores her new sister and drags Lisa to a party where things don’t go well. Lisa ends up accidentally reanimating a Victorian era corpse (Cole Sprouse). The pair embark on a murderous journey to find love and happiness along with a few body parts. But how long will they be able to go before they are discovered?
Part of why I found this such demented fun is how well the comedy is written. The writing has a demented feel from the start, with Lisa exploring the nearby cemetery. And her reactions to her accidental reanimation are hilarious, especially when she assists the living corpse with body parts or dressing him. I thought it was an interesting aspect when she sews body parts on for him. The writing also does a terrific job remembering that he is a walking corpse, as he drops bugs all over the place, including in food. The humor is quirky and off the wall, especially the creature’s reactions to the world around him. I also love how the dialogue adds to the comedy, especially Taffy’s conversations with her mother or about her mother. The comedy for me was pitch perfect creepy.
Another aspect I liked was how many references are included in the story to other films. The film has tons of references to other monster movies. In Lisa’s room are posters referencing the old monsters. The movie also uses musical cues to add to the ambience but also to give us clues as to what’s going to happen next. The music also truly fits the era the film is set in. To add to the atmosphere is the tanning bed that almost fries Lisa the first night and is used subsequently to aid the pair in their reanimation attempts.
Part of the intriguing aspect of the film is how transformation is used. Not only does the creature transform but so too does Lisa, becoming more confident and dynamic with each murder that happens. And as she changes, so does Taffy. Taffy becomes quieter and more emotional as though the pair almost change places. That aspect truly embraces the ideas of the original Frankenstein.
The comedy would not work nearly as well without the stellar acting. In particular, I found Cole Sprouse as the corpse terrifically funny and charismatic. He did more with a gesture and grunt to elicit a reaction or a laugh than anyone else in the movie. The dynamic between him and Kathryn Newton is solid, as he shows his affection for her and they become closer. Kathryn Newton is wacky and I loved her vibe as Lisa. She is emotional as she confronts those who misunderstand her and her rage as the film progresses is impressive. Liza Soberano as Taffy is endearing and also has hilarious timing with her dialogue. Her performance is balanced on the edge of satire and she handles it well. Carla Gugino is incredible as Janet, her tongue as sharp as a knife and able to give a dynamic performance. The supporting cast are every bit as good as the main performers.
If there is something that made me pause for a beat, it’s this. The film is meant to be set in the eighties but this truly isn’t clear until close to the end of the movie. While the music gives you some clues, it would have been great if this had been clearer. I also found the actions of Lisa and her corpse repetitive after the first half of the film. Despite that, I laughed the entire time and loved this demented twist on Frankenstein.
If you love Frankenstein and want a film that pokes fun at some of the ideas, I would see this movie. Lisa Frankenstein is demented fun with a sharp witty satirical edge. Cole Sprouse is funny with just a look or a gesture or a grunt. He truly is the most charismatic character on screen. Kathryn Newton is wacky and embraces a Goth nature well. Liza Soberano is emotional and hilarious as is Carla Gugino. This is one of the best twists on Frankenstein that I’ve seen in a while and well worth checking out.
Rating: 4 out of 5 creepy crawlies