Posted on: February 25, 2024 Posted by: Zuzanna Fudala Comments: 0


Frankenstein written by Mary Shelly is one of the most culturally significant gothic novels, with Frankenstein’s monster being an iconic figure in horror right next to the Mummy, the Wolfman, and Dracula. So, when I heard of a new film loosely based on Frankenstein set in the 80’s I thought, “OMG Bodacious!” The first time I saw Lisa Frankenstein, all I can say was barf me out, but after watching some Tik Toks and reading some reviews, I decided to give it another chance; it’s not as bad the second time around, but personally this monster mash is more of a monster meh.

Misunderstood and a misfit, the film follows Lisa Swallows, who is still coping with her mother’s murder which she overheard. Add to that, dealing with an emotionally-distant father, Dale, a narcissistic devil of a stepmother, Janet, and her somewhat-insensitive but well-meaning and outgoing stepsister, Taffy. After a series of horrible events, Lisa stumbles away from a party to her favorite place of comfort, the bachelors’ graveyard, specifically the grave of a young Victorian man. One wish leads to a strange event and the next thing Lisa knows, she’s got a lovesick and devoted zombie by her side that comes with some unexpected consequences. 

Lisa Frankenstein is rated PG-13, and written by Diablo Cody (Juno and Jennifer’s Body). Directed by Zelda Williams (Robin William’s daughter) it stars Kathryn Newton as Lisa Swallows, Cole Sprouse as the Creature, Liza Soberano as Taffy Swallows, Henry Eikenberry as Michael Trent (Lisa’s Crush), Joe Chrest as Dale Swallows, Carla Gugino as Janet.

Reader beware, you are now entering the spoiler zone.

There were some great moments and aspects about the film that I liked; it was both cheesy and campy and had a nice mesh of two popular styles from the 80s, that being the bright colors and bubbly look, as well as with gothic and new wave undertones. There were some hilarious moments such as when the creature spits a worm into Janet’s peaches and cream, the final nail in the coffin that leads to her “breakdown,” the scene where Lisa helps the creature find the perfect outfit and he comes out in a pink satin robe adorned with pink feathers around the sleeves, the abrupt and slo-mo moment when the creature cuts off Michael’s manhood while “On the wings of love” by Jeffery Osborne plays, and more. The costumes were for the most part 80’s or 80’s-inspired, and Lisa’s looks were especially killer. I was envious. The soundtrack especially was awesome – a blend of popular and catchy pop tunes and new-wave/gothic bangers with a hint of classical. 

The opening credits were beautiful, a 2D animation in a Tim Burtonesque style that gave the audience a look into the Creature’s past life before his untimely demise. The film overall did give a bit of a Tim Burton vibe in regards to the gothic aspects. 

I adore how Frankenstein plays an important part of Lisa’s life (hence the name of the film); her mom is murdered by an ax-wielding maniac wearing a Frankenstein party mask. In her black and white dream sequence with the Creature, we see the Frankenstein mask appear from under her bed. In her dream, Lisa also gives off “The Bride of Frankenstein” look with her hair-do.

Some of the characters were amazing; Cole Sprouse did a fantastic job as the Creature despite only having one speaking line at the end of the film. Liza Soberano as Taffy was equally amazing. It was like she came straight from the 80’s. She did a fantastic job with her role and was very “animated.” Carla Gugino as Janet sent chills up my spine with her narcissistic and domineering step-mother act; talk about unhinged. While I liked Kathryn Newton, (don’t get me wrong she’s got a straight up 80’s look) she reminded me a bit of the singer Chappel Roan. I feel like she could have been more animated with her expressions in some scenes; then again maybe I wasn’t paying attention. 

While there were some great things about Lisa Frankenstein, other aspects were just bleh. For one thing, the pacing of the film; the film overall went by fast, but the story progress felt slow and blasé at some points. The murder scenes are another example. Janet’s and Michael’s murders were interesting and fit well with the story; Doug’s (Lisa’s Science class partner) however, felt half-baked. During the beginning of the film, Lisa ends up going to a party. While at that party, Doug ends up sexually assaulting her after she drinks a spiked beverage; later on in the film, in order to get a new hand for the creature, Lisa lures Doug out to the cemetery where he meets his death. While Doug was a massive jerk – to put it lightly – there was more potential to make him a bigger villain. 

Lisa’s fanatical “crush” with Michael is confusing for me as well. We know from the beginning that Lisa has a massive crush on Michael, but at the end we discover that Michael and Taffy have a thing going on, and Lisa ends up going on a tirade how Michael seemingly can’t stand anyone else except him liking things that are “cool.” Throughout the film, I didn’t really see Michael lead Lisa on. Sure, he was interested in her poetry that she submitted into the literature magazine and talked to her, but it’s not like they went out on a date or anything. Then again maybe I was just really oblivious. Honestly, if Michael was written with a bit more antagonistic characteristics, then this scene would have made sense. 

The ending was meh as well; after Lisa’s dad and stepsister Taffy visit her grave, Taffy notices the inscription “Beloved Wife” written on the side of Lisa’s headstone. After this scene we see the creature, now no longer a zombie, reciting something from a book. As the camera pans around we see Lisa in bandages lying on the creature’s lap. While I love happy endings, I just don’t think it works with the story. A bittersweet ending would have been better, with either both the Creature and Lisa dying together, or just leaving the ending as is minus the scene after Taffy and Lisa’s dad leave. 

I could go on and on about this film but then there would be no point in you, my dear readers, seeing it, that is if you want to. If I had to rate this film I would give it 2.5 out of 5 starts. It wasn’t completely bad but it fell flat for me and definitely could have used some improvement. Maybe if the movie was rated R it would have been better, then again maybe not. Seeing as there are so many mixed views, I think Lisa Frankenstein may be considered a cult film. A cult classic? Eh, probably not, but a cult film nonetheless.