‘Lisa Frankenstein’ Review

Zelda Williams’ directorial debut cobbles together spare parts

Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody returns with Lisa Frankenstein, also Zelda Williams’ (yes, Robin’s daughter) directorial debut and a bizarre mish-mash of superior films that smacks of millennials telling the zoomers that they (we?) are still hip and groovy while somehow forgetting to make a film worth watching.

Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania star Kathryn Newton here plays Lisa, a high school-aged dork with goth leanings circa 1989 whose father remarried a little too quickly after her mother died, forcing them into a new home in a new town just as Lisa hits her senior year. There, Lisa’s stepmother (a cheesy-but-in-a-bad-way Carla Gugino) criticizes her every move while her father stands by cluelessly. School is a living hell, too, and Lisa’s only respites come from her stepsister Taffy (Liza Soberano, who is easily the funniest—read, only reliably funny—performer in the movie) and a weird cemetery in the woods called Bachelor’s Grove where only single dudes ever got buried in the 1800-somethings.

Presenting a rather reductive and borderline mean look at ‘80s goth culture, Cody here has Lisa reading poetry to a literal grave and even wishing during a storm that she could be with one of the guys buried there. Said storm brings that dude, thereafter known as The Creature (Cole Sprouse, Riverdale), back to life, and he naturally starts killing anyone who wrongs Lisa to harvest their body parts which, for whatever reason, slowly de-zombify him through the power of a magic tanning bed. Lisa goes way more goth; The Creature gets a new hand and ear culled from his murder victims; high school continues to suck.

Newton surely tries her best as the outcast Lisa, and even hits some funny-ish moments regarding insecurity and budding sexuality. Cody lands on a bit of witty dialogue a handful of times, but Lisa Frankenstein abounds with inexplicable moments—like the neighborhood couple who sits on their lawn in the dark while reading solely in service of exposition, or the weird way people just walk into other peoples’ homes unannounced.

Williams’ newcomer status shows in most of her stilted choices. Meanwhile, whoever was in charge of set design clearly forgot—or just plain didn’t know—that the 1980s were a lot more brown and beige than they were the bright teals and pinks and neons of the very early ‘90s. Lisa Frankenstein thus reads like a strange mix between the tone of Heathers without the cynical wit, Edward Scissorhands without the social commentary and that of the tragically underrated absurdity of 1993 zom-com My Boyfriend’s Back, only without the sincerity.

Cody and Williams make it nearly impossible to discern whether they’re attempting to deliver a message or not. If they are, they kind of dropped the ball. If not, and Lisa Frankenstein is just -supposed to be a silly little comedy…well, better luck next time, Zelda.


+Soberano is a pleasure to watch; Newton has a certain charm

-Not particularly funny; weak writing

Lisa Frankenstein

Directed by Williams

With Newton, Soberano and Sprouse

Violet Crown, Regal, 101 min., PG-13

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.