Review by Tatiana Miranda
Fifteen years after the release of the cult classic film Jennifer's Body, writer-producer Diablo Cody expands on her horror comedy filmography with Lisa Frankenstein. Written by Cody and directed by Zelda Williams, Lisa Frankenstein is a campy horror film set in the 1980s and loosely based on Mary Shelley's infamous monster. Despite it being Williams's feature-length debut, it is a fantastic follow-up to Jennifer's Body that still feels like a wholly unique, standalone film.
The film stars Kathryn Newton as Lisa, an eighteen-year-old outcast dealing with an overwhelmingly popular stepsister, absent father, evil stepmother, and the aftereffects of her mother's grim death. Unpopular and misunderstood, Lisa finds solace in goth music, her favorite silent films, and an unnamed Frankenstein's monster-like character played by Cole Sprouse. Newton and Sprouse are also joined by Carla Gugino, Joe Chrest, Henry Eikenberry, and Liza Soberano.
While February might seem like a weird time to release a horror-comedy, the film's campy romance between Lisa and the monster makes it the perfect alternative rom-com. Similarly to Cody's work on Juno, Lisa Frankenstein shows the world through a more rose-colored lens. Less dark than Jennifer's Body and unlike other popular dark comedies with more distinct good and bad characters, Lisa Frankenstein doesn't focus on the ethics of murders or regeneration. Instead, character actions are taken at face value.
This is not to say that the campy nature of the film makes it unbelievable, but it comes off as more fantastical. Like the plot's supernatural nature, the characters don't subscribe to the ethics and consequences of the real world. While sometimes this can come across as an easy way out of dealing with plot holes, Lisa Frankenstein uses its otherworldliness to create a captivating world full of eccentric characters.
Outside of the outlandish plot and characters, Lisa Frankenstein's campiness also comes from its over-the-top '80s-inspired aesthetics and soundtrack. From REO Speedwagon to Wite-Out as nail polish, the film incorporates plenty of trends and music from the '80s in a way that feels more like a caricature of the decade rather than being period-accurate or a parody. The distinctive costumes and incredible soundtrack lend themselves to the film's likely cult classic status.
Even with great performances by Newton, Sprouse, and Soberano as Lisa's stepsister, Taffy, the characters come off as secondary to the plot and aesthetics. Since the film isn't a drama by any means, it makes sense to keep certain characters more rudimentary to focus on the extremity of the plot. Yet, it also makes it harder to have emotional beats between characters that don't have well-developed relationships, such is the case with Lisa and Taffy.
Overall, though, Lisa Frankenstein is another wonderful work from Cody that feels unlike anything else. This, paired with stellar performances and captivating visuals, makes the film a fun spin on the usual rom-com genre and a perfect Valentine's date night movie.
Lisa Frankenstein hits theaters on February 9.