"Lisa Frankenstein" Film Review

Lisa Frankenstein (2024) - IMDb

"Lisa Frankenstein" Film Review

Rating: 4.5/5

By: Nathaniel Simpson

    The tale of Frankenstein has been brought to the big screens for almost 100 hundred years, with numerous films detailing different adaptations of this classic story from Mary Shelley. You would think that after numerous retellings of the classic monster that it would get boing and tired after a while; however, Diablo Cody, the genius behind some fantastic films like "Juno" and "Jennifer's Body", brings to life a beautifully demented and hilariously wild comedy that shows what would happen if a teenage girl reanimates the man of her dreams and then go on a killing spree together to really create the man of her dreams. This movie is not only incredibly entertaining and fun, but really has a beautiful story and message behind it, which is elevated by the wonderful performances from Kathryn Newton and Cole Sprouse.    

    Newton plays Lisa Swallows, a demented teenage girl who is haunted by a past traumatic event that forced her to develop selective mutism. Therefore, she has a hard time fitting in at this new school she has to attend due to her father (Joe Chrest) marries the cruel Janet (Carla Gugino), even though her step-sister Taffy (Liza Soberano) tries to help her make friends. The only schoolmate she is interested in is the editor of the school paper, Michael Trent (Henry Eikenberry), but even has a hard time talking to him. So, when she is feeling lonely, she finds herself going back to a "haunted" cemetery, where she interacts with the grave of a Victorian man, the only one who truly listens to her. 

    However, when there is a huge storm and a green ball of lightning (literally) strikes the graveyard, it brings back the man underneath that grave (Cole Sprouse), who then goes to find Lisa because he believes she has fallen in love with him. When they first interact, it goes sour. But, as time goes on, Lisa finds herself confiding in this undead man, and eventually move on to butchering people to build her monster to life. It's shocking, gloriously dark and demented, and therefore, it works so damn well. 

    Like tons of other people, I am a huge fan of Tim Burton and the dark romcoms from the 80's. Movies like "Heathers" and "Edward Scissorhands" are cult classics, and after the turn of the 2000's, films like the ones listed just simply didn't exist anymore. There sadly wasn't a demand for these type of movies in modern America, even though fans like us have been desperately wanting more films like this in the future. Thankfully, Cody answers our prayers, and delivers this movie that we have desperately wanting for such a long time. There are so many moments in this movie that not only feel like a modern day horror romcom, but feels like it was simply made in the era of these dark romcoms. It was euphoric watching this film at the theaters and the events that played out, and it took all I had in me not to jump up and cheer this movie at every turn. 

    The story is so beautifully written, and then translated to the screen by Zelda Williams. Not only is this a beautifully haunting love story that makes the viewer fall head over heels, but is simply a love letter to horror cinema. Consider Lisa's room; there are posters and drawings inspired by numerous classic horror films and really sets the tone for the movie. The film puts itself in a league of its own by wanting to be a horror movie, but have so much appreciation for the movie it is trying to be. In a way, Williams and Cody, who are great filmmakers, really feel like huge fans that wanted to tell this story. This doesn't feel like a generic studio project, but really a passion project both of these brilliant women wanted to tell on the screen. 

    I also think the film handles trauma really well. We see how Lisa is at the start of this movie due to the event that happened to her, and we see how she evolves over time and really becomes a different person due to having someone who cares about her in her life. This movie really hits the nail on the head concerning human emotions and how empowering someone can really pay off in the long run. 

    The acting here is so good as well. Newton proves herself to be the next leading lady, the next Winona Ryder, if you will. She takes this role and runs with it, giving a performance from her that we haven't seen before. I love the arc her character follows from beginning to end, going from a shy and depressed girl to a sexy and brave young woman; her character at the end of the film doesn't even look the same or is reminiscent from what we saw at the beginning of the movie. She definitely stole the show here, and I not only fell in love with her character, but with Newton as an actress. Sprouse, even though he is not as prevalent as Newton, does a great job as well. His character doesn't talk for most of the runtime, and he utilizes the silent comedy that was really created by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in the beginning of cinema. He really understands what he has to do to make this character work, and he executes it flawlessly from beginning to end. 

    At the same time, the supporting cast here are on top of their game, especially Soberano. She does a fantastic job of playing Lisa's sister, and her character is just so lovable and fun the entire film. I really enjoyed her character, and it's one of those roles where you just want her to be happy as the film concludes. I think you have an attachment to her just like you do towards Lisa and the Creature. I also thought Gugino did great here too. She really made me hate her as a person, and that is a really hard job for an actor to do (because I genuinely could never hate Gugino). So, I give major props to both of these actresses. 

    The costume design, makeup artists, and set design crew really elevate the story beyond what it could have been as well. They really make this movie feel like a classic 80's dark romcom, and it works wonders here. I especially love the costumes and makeup styles they had for Newton as I think it works so damn well for her character and really makes her character pop. 

    There are some moments in the movie, especially in the beginning, that perhaps go on for a little too long and could have been edited a lot better. I think Cody perhaps had problems really getting this script running, but once she was able to introduce the real meat and potatoes of the story, she really shines. I just really think some scenes could have been edited down or extended throughout the movie. 

    Even though 2024 just started, this movie is a frontrunner for one of my favorites of the year. It has everything I would have ever wanted from a film like this and is just hilariously fun and wicked throughout. I really want to see this movie again as soon as possible because I know this is one where you will have fun with every single time you watch it. Cody, Williams, Newton, and Sprouse crafted something sincerely beautiful, and I am so thankful this movie was made by such wonderful talents.