Lisa Frankenstein Offers a Twist on the Mary Shelley Classic

4208_D001_00030_R Kathryn Newton stars as Lisa Swallows in LISA FRANKENSTEIN, a Focus Features release. Credit: Michele K. Short / © 2024 FOCUS FEATURES LLC

Lisa Frankenstein might not be the most memorable feature directorial debut but there are laughs to be found during the film.

The combination of Zelda Williams and Diablo Cody piqued my curiosity. Not being one for horror, I had to make sure that the film was a horror-comedy first. Sure enough, it was. Believe me, it was worth hiking a mile and a half after missing the bus on Wednesday night. Will this film be for you? Maybe, maybe not. What I’ll tell right now is that I was laughing quite a bit and didn’t jump once. There are some gory moments but the film does the best it can at having those off-camera. I’d like to think that Robin Williams is laughing somewhere, proud of Zelda’s achievement. As for Mary Shelley, your guess is as good as mine. It’s quite the twist on the classic Frankenstein story but I would expect nothing less from Diablo Cody even as the screenwriter pays homage to John Hughes and Weird Science.

Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton) is not your average high school student in 1989. I would imagine that most students do not witness their mother’s death by an axe-murderer. It leads to a massive amount of PTSD, including mutism. After her father remarries, Lisa picks up a cheerleader, Taffy (Liza Soberano), as a step sister. Lisa has a better relationship with Taffy than with Taffy’s mother (Carla Gugino). Anyway, Lisa spends plenty of time at the local Bachelor’s Grove cemetery, drawn to the grave of a man who has been dead since 1837.

Lisa is not the type of student that parties. She attends one with Taffy but it does not go well. Her crush, Michael Trent, is not the person that she thought he was. In fact, it ends with Lisa going on quite the trip–with a sexual assault along the way–wishing to spend her life with the dead guy. This is a film where actions have consequences! Meanwhile, A corpse (Cole Sprouse) shows up the next night but the family has a tough time believing her. In fact, her step-mother believes that she is reliving her mother’s death and wanting attention. Despite everything, she finds herself wanting to hep the dead guy, spending time with him. The catch of it all, of course, is that the course is missing body parts and needs to feel whole again. That’s where this film truly takes us on a ride.

The thing with comedy is that it is subjective. What works for one view might not necessarily work for another. It really depends on the person. Anyway, there are events in the film that do feel predictable. But even at that, the laughter during a situation can often be contagious. At the same time, will this be a memorable film? Time will tell but for right now, I’m just satisfied to find any laughs that I can in a film. But then again, my headspace has been a mess for the four months that have followed since October 7.

For better or worse, Lisa Frankenstein might just be the take on Frankenstein that we didn’t know we needed.

DIRECTOR: Zelda Williams
CAST: Kathryn Newton, Cole Sprouse, Liza Soberano, Henry Eikenberry, Joe Chrest, and Carla Gugino

Focus Features will release Lisa Frankenstein in theaters on February 9, 2024. Grade: 3.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.