Lisa (Kathryn Newton, "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania") is having a tough time adjusting after her dad Dale’s (Joe Chrest, Netflix's 'Stranger Things') remarriage uproots her life, moving her into a new high school in her senior year. While Lisa tends towards Goth, her new step-sister Taffy (Liza Soberano) is a cheerleader and her step-mother Janet (Carla Gugino, "Watchmen") is convinced Lisa is an ungrateful wretch who purposefully broke her Precious Moments cake stand. But Lisa never expects that the denizen of her favorite grave, the young man carved into his own headstone, will come a’ calling one night and make her a modern day “Lisa Frankenstein.”
Laura's Review: D+
While the use of black and white Victorian shadow portraits for the film’s opening credits promise an interesting aesthetic, director Zelda Williams and writer Diablo Cody’s ("Jennifer's Body," "Tully") attempt to merge Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” with his “Edward Scissorhands” is mostly notable for its unlikable characters. A live action dream sequence aping those opening credits (production design by “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’s” Mark Worthington), nods to silent movie director G.W. Pabst, a “Rocky Horror” reference and a few choice soundtrack selections are not enough to save this film.
Taffy’s attempt to include Lisa in her social life immediately become suspect when she shares the story Lisa doesn’t wish to be shared as soon as Lisa’s out of ear shot (a bizarre tale of how Lisa’s mother was killed by a home invading axe murderer after telling her daughter to hide, reproduced here never to be mentioned again). She has no encouraging words for Lisa’s admitted attraction to Michael Trent (Henry Eikenberry, HBO's 'Euphoria'), the editor of the school’s literary magazine Grackle, despite the fact that he’s quite cute. Lisa’s thrilled when he tells her he likes her dark poetry at the party, but when she realizes she’s been roofied by someone, she retreats only to be ‘saved’ then groped by her nerdy lab partner Doug (Bryce Romero, “Maggie”). Running off to the cemetery, Lisa wishes she could be with the young man buried below her.
Home alone one night, she hears a noise in the house and it turns out to be the reanimated corpse from the grave she frequents, missing one hand and an ear. After getting over the shock of what her misinterpreted words produced, she encourages him to take a shower and whisks him through a dress up montage until he gains her approval in a Violent Femmes t-shirt and jacket. The remainder of the film involves the duo in two homicides and a castration to replace his missing parts while The Creature (Cole Sprouse, TV's 'Riverdale'), who can only grunt, listens to Lisa’s lovestruck woes until she realizes they were meant for each other.
Two scenes are awkwardly inserted to give Lisa her Frankenstein creds, one in which Taffy informs her she is a former Miss Hawaiian Tropic, in order to explain why the garage is outfitted as a tanning salon (the better to reanimate dead flesh) and another where Michael runs into Lisa at the dry cleaner where she works – behind a sewing machine. And while Lisa’s proven she’s no friend to Taffy, her declaration that Taffy is her ‘one true friend’ in the film’s final moments also seems far-fetched given a late-breaking betrayal and Taffy’s habit of calling Lisa’s father ‘daddy’ in a creepy little girl voice.
“Lisa Frankenstein” is dead on arrival.
Focus Features releases "Lisa Frankenstein" in theaters on 2/9/24.