Lisa Frankenstein (2024)

Lisa Frankenstein Review

Lisa Frankenstein

I still defend “Jennifer’s body” against skeptics fifteen years after it was released to the public.

Her wordsmith, Diablo Cody, who saw her stock rise with an Oscar win for “Juno” just one year earlier, tends to use sarcasm in excess and has been pilloried by some for gratuitous floating one-liners and punched-up dialogue. Was the movie sexist or were viewers sexist for finding bombshell Megan Fox a distraction as the hot popular lead? I thought “Jennifer’s Body” had something else to say that was delivered in a witty, amusing, bloody manner despite the hue and cry of my fellow critics.

Now fifteen years later, Cody pens another high school horror romp about another teenage corpse. But this time around there is nothing between Lisa Frankenstein’s ears but dead space which doesn’t really drive home what it means to be a teenager nor does it offer a cutting commentary on 1980s consumerism as well as America’s sterile suburbs.

All that in a zombie love story? you may ask. “Edward Scissorhands,” which clearly influenced him here, did far more with less (Depp said fewer than 150 words in that film). Another obvious starting point is “Heathers,” whose costume design contained an entire thesis statement on its own. The film captures the tone but loses the substance of its predecessors; those digits are painted like tanning bed tan lines without solidifying its core and soul enough to survive out here among harsh landscape of film criticism.

Lisa Newton has taken on Kathryn Newton’s role with full force so much so that midway through the film she ceases to resemble our once level-headed protagonist according to your understanding. Besides wasn’t she brought back from the dead or possessed by any demon at all? Remember how she was reading poetry during her first appearance as an alt-chick swaying over headstones at Bachelors Grove Cemetery where young bachelors of the nineteenth century found their final resting place? These scenes are less impactful and more distracting because of the poorly designed set which is a cluttered mix of fake ivy and plastic ferns that make you feel like you are walking through the silk flower department at Hobby Lobby.

The audience can forgive the hokey stage, however, we cannot let go the ineffectiveness that follows. Lisa swallows is a high school graduating senior who has not yet gotten over her mother being killed during a home invasion by some psycho with an ax. No doubt she needs therapy badly. In fact, instead he goes ahead to marry another woman called Janet (Carla Gugino) – which I suspect was done purely for one line shout out to “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (“Dammit, Janet”) delivered by Newton in muted compliance – who becomes his new domineering wife and forces him to move Lisa into her house where she has two daughters including Taffy (Liza Soberano), a rather thick yet attractive cheerleader who eventually shows kindness to Lisa.

The biggest fun Lisa has is seeing the absurdity and nonsense of 80s trends and ideas as expressed by this toothy grin. A tanning bed became Taffy’s personal, won attraction from a beauty competition which eventually sees The Creature’s rotting body become rejuvenated over time. Black lace dresses replaced Lisa’s fashion sense, with the addition of huge frizzy hair and a floral bucket hat. She longs after Jared Leto, her school newspaper editor who looks like long-haired Jared Leto in “My So-Called Life” but is far less profound than he appears to be. It is all here in its high-waisted jean glory but it doesn’t mesh together like we had wanted it to.

Newtown, who gives herself completely to the character sometimes feels that she is one woman act: singing, dancing and portraying Lisa while receiving no support from other actors or even script.

However, by far the movie’s greatest disappointment comes when it resurrects a monster called The Creature on IMDb credits portrayed with great facial acting by Cole Sprouse. It’s not about what Sprouse did or did not do; the part was doomed from the start. He is mute and can only groan or gesture his needs. Longing for him playing his beloved piano requires whole working parts such as an ear or hand he would love to have again after being buried for 150 years.

In many ways designed in Scissorhands’ mold “Lisa” came before Edward Scissorhands was shown in cinemas dating back to 1989. Unfortunately, The creature lacks the same alluring backstory and character lore that allowed Depp so much depth. Then there was a magical green lightning storm that brought back The Creature and now he must hide in Lisa’s closet until his chance comes to kill for parts sake alone. There is also no chemistry between Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder that made their love story in Scissorhands so appealing to the audience. Along with that, Lisa did not initially fall in love with him and kill for him. In a short period of time, Lisa goes from being a bookworm to a bloodhound, and her character can be interpreted as two different beings: one before Creature and another after. The connections are clunky if not completely awkward, and it is unlikely that viewers would cheer for Lisa, The Creature or any of the other rather loathsome figures in this film.

Zelda Williams directs the movie for the first time in her life, at least she tried though I can’t blame her much for what I hoped she would make here. There’s something about “Lisa” that may attract some viewers on the surface level at least. It is just an odd little comedic horror with its own appeal.

I am hopeful that “Lisa Frankenstein” will become a cult classic like his predecessor Cody did over time or after several watches. I hope people will rail against this review as I have done for years on behalf of “Jennifer’s Body”. Surely there is enough room at the table for two horror comedies centered around women? In my eyes —right now –this monstrous “Frankenstein” is D.O.A..

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