Lisa Frankenstein Does Not Shake the Dead, But Gives Them A Light Stir

Madison McMahon 27’ / Emertainment Monthly Head TV Section Editor

Zelda Williams’ directorial debut, Lisa Frankenstein, released February 9, 2024 to an adequate amount of excitement. Starring Kathryn Newton as Lisa and Cole Sprouse as The Creature,  rabid fanbases from both Marvel and Riverdale were quick to take note of Lisa Frankenstein’s freakily hot and hilarious trailer. In addition to boasting some popular names, the title also invokes fans of Mary Shelley’s 1818 breakthrough sci-fi novel, Frankenstein. With all this riding on its undead shoulders, Williams does an adequate job of bearing the weight. 

The film does not attempt to recreate Frankenstein, but rather give it a killer-cult-classic 80s vibe. Six months after the murder of her mother, Lisa (Kathryn Newton) is living with the family her father (Joe Chrest) quickly remarried. Lisa’s loner attitude is contrasted by her bubbly cheerleader step-sister, Taffy (Liza Soberano), who genuinely tries to make life easier for Lisa. However, Lisa’s step-mother (Carla Gugino), is quick to fault Lisa for any mistakes, going so far as threatening to send her to a mental hospital for them. Luckily, a bolt of lightning reanimates the corpse of The Creature (Cole Sprouse), who is happy to kill anyone who troubles Lisa—in exchange for her cutting off their limbs to sew onto his decrepit body. 

While the plot is flimsy in logic, the performances are electrifying, particularly from the leading ladies. Kathryn Newton encapsulates the feminine rage of being a teenage girl—who is now sharing a room with an undead man from the 1800s; Liza Soberano gives a fresh spin on the once wicked step-sister by portraying a truly kind and realistic teenager from the 1980s; and Carla Gugino hypnotizes audiences just as well as she did in the acclaimed The Haunting of Hill House (2018). The actors’ performances are uplifted by Williams’ masterful direction of physical comedy that would surely make her father, Robin Williams, proud. 

Williams nods to several other horror movies such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Coraline (2009) that resemble the charmingly absurd nature of Lisa Frankenstein. Though its literary nudges are cute and the film elicits many laughs, the movie altogether does not resolve any conflicts with a beating heart. Most of the characters’ opinions flip with little to no explanation or motivation. The ending fits in with the illogical tone of the rest of the film, but does not conjure any emotions, despite its content dealing with the poignant themes of death, time, and remembrance. 

Audiences should not go in expecting Lisa Frankenstein to inspire them as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein does, but tickle them silly as Heathers (1988) would. If one is looking for colorful cinematography—both literally and metaphorically—and women getting a chance to utilize their comedic skills, Zelda Williams has you covered.

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