Lisa Frankenstein (2024)

Director: Zelda Williams

Running Time: 101 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Kathryn Newton, Cole Sprouse, Liza Soberano, Henry Eikenberry, Joe Chrest, Carla Gugino

Adapting a script by Diablo Cody, Zelda Williams makes her feature directorial debut with Lisa Frankenstein, a gothic coming of age tale that oozes style from the animated title sequence. The story follows Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton), a lonely girl haunted by her mother's axe-murder who is most comfortable at Bachelor's Grove cemetery. While she gets along with helpful stepsister, Taffy (Liza Soberano), the same cannot be said about her step-mother (Carla Gugino) who thinly masks her dislike for Lisa. After a freak accident at the cemetery reanimates a corpse (Cole Sprouse), Lisa and the creature embark on a murderous journey of self-discovery.

From a silent-movie inspired dream sequence, to the vital inclusion of an electrocuting tanning bed, this is a unique take on a tale inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The tale of a resurrected corpse and his creator is relocated to the late '80s, drawing inspiration from teen romance and gothic camp for an enjoyable work.

In the titular role, Newton is an utter blast to watch as the teenager looking for warmth in an uncaring world that dismisses her as "odd." The main person she connects with is the Creature, a man out of time who desires more body parts to make him whole. Sprouse effectively brings alive this walking corpse with a notable physicality that conveys much about the character without words. As these two lost souls bond with each other, their connection serves as the film's beating heart and captures how they have become fuller versions of themselves in each other's company.

As the loving step-sister, Soberano is an utterly charming presence as one of the few people who sticks by Lisa's side. Taffy's kindness constantly feels genuine, which leads to an utterly charming scene in the third-act as the sisters have a heart-to-heart. This bond is needed when Lisa must contend with her wicked stepmother, played with relish by Gugino. The tightly wound character constantly dotes over her pastel-coloured home, a gaudy way to mask the artifice of her "selfless" actions.

While there are some killer gags throughout, one wishes the hit-rate was higher across the 101-minute runtime. It is also notable how the story threads struggle to come together by the end, while a considerable portion of the finale seems to forget Lisa's father. Yet these elements will not matter to the target audience, of which this reviewer is admittedly not part of. Just as Tim Burton's works connected with a previous generation, Zelda Williams' feature fills the void left behind by Burton's later disappointments. Lisa Frankenstein is a stylish work for the outsiders looking for connection, complete with a touch of the macabre.

Lisa Frankenstein is available on 4K, Blu-Ray, and DVD now.