Romance is in the air, or the graveyard in the new Focus Features film Lisa Frankenstein. Following a teenage girl, Lisa, whose life has been marked with tragedy. Tending graves in a bachelor’s graveyard (which is a bit odd on its own) she starts falling for one of the guys in the grave as she feels a connection to him. After a storm reanimates him, they quickly become friends as she begins to take control of her life and he is on a mission to become whole again.
Lisa, played by Kathryn Newton (Freaky, Ant-Man), goes from quiet and mousy, to teen goth princess in a matter of days shocking everyone around her. The transition is almost too quick for the story as well. Unlike Michelle Pfeiffer’s transition to Cat Woman, there isn’t much of a catalyst for Lisa’s quick transition. She just says screw it and decides it’s time to fight back and to dress in her step-sister’s more risque outfits and costumes. Was it the spiked drink and possible assault from her lab partner that set her off? Her stepmom’s constant yelling at her? The movie doesn’t nail down her breaking point but she goes from quiet and demure to seductress without setting off the alarm bells of pretty much any adult around her.
This isn’t the only place the movie makes jumps in story and logic – another is her relationship with The Creature. In the beginning, she tells her step-sister she’s intrigued by him, she later tells him she meant she wanted to be with him in the grave not in life. And when The Creature first comes into her life (out of the grave) it only takes a few minutes for Lisa to jump from scared to friends and later accomplices and lovers. Even if the movie took place over weeks and months, some of these jumps were so fast they broke some sort of record – and maybe her stepmom was right and she was mentally unwell. There are other signs of that as well, although her stepmom’s ulterior motives may have clouded her “professional” judgement as well.
Cole Sprouse (Riverdale, Friends, Five Feet Apart) takes on the role of The Creature. A Victorian-era young gentleman who died after his heart was broken. He’s now in love with the mysterious girl who wished to be with him (in the grave) and after he was brought to life by a freak lightning strike – will do anything to be with her and protect her from the people who are hurting her in her life. With very few lines in the movie, Sprouse grunts his way through as a version of Frankenstein’s monster and as he is slowly rebuilt, becomes more and more human. But there’s something else we noticed as he’s rebuilt throughout as well – his styling, makeup, and clothing look very Johnny Depp from Sweeney Todd (Burton) or even Victor from Corpse Bride. Is this the only aesthetic that we can give to Victorian-era men? Or is this going to be a new trope that we fall into when it comes to including them in horror-adjacent movies? The look, however, does look good on Sprouse, but it almost seemed too easy and we were going to take a trip to Fleet Street at any point.
Yes, Lisa Frankenstein can be silly and enjoyable – but you have to go into it not expecting too much. The talent in the movie almost seems wasted in some parts as they try hard to stick with the aesthetics of 1989. From the overly exhausting patterns and pastels that dominate the movie, mixed with the hair that can stretch for the ceilings – it will take you back to that time in your life (if you were around), but more so the music is a better vehicle than anything happening on the stage.
It’s hard to say what exactly Lisa Frankenstein is trying to be – A comedy? A teenage romance? An angsty revenge story similar to Heathers? There seem to be elements of all of these tossed in there and not a clear idea of what it wanted. Even with that being said the movie did have a lot of fun and enjoyable parts. But if you’re a real horror fan or looking for a movie that doesn’t go from 0 to 60 in five minutes while expecting you to laugh along the way – this may not be the movie for you.
Lisa Frankenstein is in theaters everywhere this weekend.
About Lisa Frankenstein
A coming of RAGE love story from acclaimed writer Diablo Cody (Jennifer’s Body) about a misunderstood teenager and her high school crush, who happens to be a handsome corpse. After a set of playfully horrific circumstances bring him back to life, the two embark on a murderous journey to find love, happiness… and a few missing body parts along the way.
Starring Kathryn Newton, Cole Sprouse, Liza Soberano, Henry Eikenberry, Joe Chrest and Carla Gugino
Directed by Zelda Williams