‘Lisa Frankenstein’ Review: Cinderella Meets Classic Monster Flick

Surviving high school is no easy task, a sentiment that many of us can empathize with. Some thrived in high school, living at the top of the food chain, but it can be grueling if you’re not popular in some respect. Day in, day out, different day, same…well, you get it. High school can feel like Groundhog Day, especially if you aren’t thriving among the hallowed halls of your school. It can feel like a prison, where you’re living for the weekend and hoping that your least favorite subject isn’t as grueling as it always is. Lisa Frankenstein from Focus Features is made for those who have been in these shoes. This one is for those who were the outcasts among their classmates, with Lisa Frankenstein perfectly capturing those vibes.

Lisa Frankenstein is written by Diablo Cody (JunoJennifer’s Body) and directed by Zelda Williams in her directorial debut. Set in the same fictional universe as Jennifer’s Body, per the writer, Lisa Frankenstein tells the tale of Lisa Swallows, who, due to circumstances outside of her control, is misunderstood and the pariah in both her family and high school. However, her life takes an unexpected turn when the corpse of a long-dead hunk becomes reanimated and stumbles into her home. Starring Kathryn NewtonCole SprouseLiza Soberano, and Carla GuginoLisa Frankenstein is looking to bring the love and the scares just in time for Valentine’s Day!

[Warning: light spoilers and impressions for Lisa Frankenstein are below!]

Lisa Swallows has lived a difficult life

Being the outcast at school isn’t easy, as Lisa Swallows (Newton) knows intimately. It’s bad enough being seen as the weird one by your peers, especially when it’s for things out of one’s control. Lisa didn’t ask for her mother to be brutally murdered, nor the subsequent trauma and mutism that came along with it, but what’s a girl gonna do? All she wants to do is make it through her senior year without any problems or too much ridicule. However, if it isn’t an issue at school, then it’s difficulties at home, as Lisa is living a true Cinderella story.

With the death of her mother, her father, Dale (Joe Chrest), has remarried, giving Lisa the worst kind of evil stepmother. Janet (Carla Gugino) is wicked in every sense of the word. She’s cruel in her actions towards her new stepdaughter, finding ways to pick at Lisa. She says vile things at and about Lisa, trying to convince others that there’s something wrong with the young girl. Unfortunately for Lisa, Dale is oblivious to the issues or just thoroughly checked out from the situation. It’s hard to see how he and Janet got together or what they see in each other, as Janet is domineering and Dale is present but absent.

Lisa Frankenstein
The Creature (Cole Sprouse) and Lisa (Kathryn Newton). Lisa Frankenstein (Focus Features).

Lisa’s new step-sister, the wildly popular Taffy (Liza Soberano), is the only one on her side. She stands up for Lisa when others make fun of her, especially her mother, and the horrid comments that spew from her mouth. However, despite this one example of positivity in her life, Lisa doesn’t want to live. She’s tired of the abuse from those at school and home, but life has other plans in store for her.

With a poorly worded wish and a flash of lightning, Lisa awakens the spirit and corpse of a long-dead musician (Cole Sprouse). The Creature, as he’s called in the film, is attached to Lisa like a dopey boyfriend to his girlfriend. However, Lisa is interested in bad guy Michael (Henry Eikenberry), who attends her high school. With the help of The Creature, Lisa embraces a darker side to life. Out with the old and in with the new, together Lisa and The Creature look towards a new future they create for themselves.

The positives and negatives of Lisa Frankenstein 

There is so much to like about Lisa Frankenstein that it’s hard to know where to begin. I enjoyed the overall story, which felt like it lived in a world with some of Tim Burton’s works. Throughout Lisa Frankenstein, I kept thinking about how reminiscent it was of Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. It’s the blend of the macabre story with the colorful world which feels ripped from years past. It is a slice of 1950s modern America, even though it is set firmly in the late 80s. 

The sets are vibrant and feel like a psychedelic representation of the decade it’s placed in. I loved touches like the bright pink house, which felt right at home with the 80’s aesthetic that Lisa Frankenstein blessed us with. This is felt in every scene, from the clothes to the cars, but the bright colors and way too many ruffles truly bring the decade alive for me on the screen.

However, with Lisa Frankenstein so consumed by the 80s, there were some tropes and issues that are alive and present in the film that felt like they were straight out of the past. My biggest gripe is the awkward and unpleasant jokes about girls and their bodies. Specifically the jokes from grown men about teenage girls. I understand what they were trying to go for, with Lisa Frankenstein being a film that could live among those actually from the ’80s, but having an adult male character comment about a girl’s flat chest is wrong. I could tell from the audience I wasn’t alone in feeling that way. Most people didn’t laugh, and those who did did so nervously. 

The romance between Lisa and The Creature also felt forced and eventually shoehorned into the film. It didn’t feel natural, which, for any romantic comedy, must be built up in the movie. For the audience to buy into it, we have to feel like it’s earned, which it definitely isn’t in Lisa Frankenstein. It goes from almost non-existent until near the end, and then it just is. It feels odd and switches the film quickly in one direction. Perhaps the awkwardness is due to the lack of dialogue between the two, but Lisa feels so self-absorbed in her problems that she never sees The Creature for anything other than property. 

That being said, the acting within Lisa Frankenstein is superb, with exceptional praise for Kathryn NewtonLiza Soberano, and Carla GuginoGugino is easily my favorite part of this film, as Janet is so utterly different from other roles I have seen her in. I reveled in her wickedness in nearly every scene. I wanted more of her in the film because she stole the scenes she’s involved in.

Final Thoughts on Lisa Frankenstein

Overall, Lisa Frankenstein was a fun film that felt like an authentic ’80s horror film. It was scary in the right moments and hilarious throughout. It’s the type of film I didn’t realize I was missing, but I definitely was. Kathryn Newton is a strong leading lady, and for those who doubted her abilities after Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, she deserves more roles such as this. If you’re a fan of classic horror films, this is the perfect film. And if you’re looking for a funny movie with just the right amount of spookiness for Valentine’s Day, Lisa Frankenstein is the right film for you.

Lisa Frankenstein is now playing in theaters.

Lisa Frankenstein is currently in theaters. Have you watched it yet? What did you think? Connect with us on X @MoviesWeTexted to let us know your thoughts.

You might also like…

Last Night at Terrace Lanes - Interview with Director Jamie Nash

Last Night at Terrace Lanes’ – Interview with Director Jamie Nash

Bob Marley One Love - Movie Review

Bob Marley: One Love’ Movie Review: Meandering But Earnest and Timely

The Peasants Movie Review - K Welchman and Hugh Welchman

The Peasants’ Movie Review: Polish Animated Drama Fit for a King