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Movie Review: 'Lisa Frankenstein' Starring Kathryn Newton and Cole Sprouse

Diablo Cody and Zelda Williams bring a retro lens to a modern reimagining of a beloved monster.

By Sean PatrickPublished 2 months ago 5 min read
Top Story - February 2024

Lisa Frankenstein (2024)

Directed by Zelda Williams

Written by Diablo Cody

Starring Kathryn Newton, Cole Sprouse

Release Date February 9th, 2024

Published February 12th, 2024

Lisa (Kathryn Newton) is an awkward teenager who has been through terrible trauma. Lisa's mother was murdered by an ax murderer. Now, as we join her story, she's living in the suburbs, her father has remarried to a shrewish, bitter woman, played by Carla Gugino, and Lisa is struggling to fit in. At the very least, her new sister, Taffy (Liza Soberano), is sweet and supportive, to a point. Where Lisa is awkward and an outcast, Taffy is a popular cheerleader with everyone at school fawning over her. Of course, Lisa doesn't make fitting in easy for herself. Lisa's favorite new hobby in her new hometown is to hang out in a decrepit cemetery.

There, Lisa makes art and chats with the dead. One gravestone in particular, that of a man named Frankenstein, featuring a marble bust of the man's handsome face, catches Lisa's attention more than the others. She decorates this grave and leaves gifts including her late mother's rosary. Thus, when Frankenstein's grave is struck by lightning and the man in the grave bursts back to life, he comes searching for his new friend. Lisa is perhaps the only person who could take this sort of development in stride, after a brief comic chase around her house as she thinks The Creature, as he's known in the credits, played by Cole Sprouse, tries desperately to explain who he is without words.

Eventually, he is able to explain himself and through trial and error, he ends up killing on her behalf. They also figure out that a malfunctioning tanning bed in the garage carries an electrical charge strong enough to help Frankenstein recover some of his more recognizable human traits. As this happens, The Creature helps Lisa to feel more confident and sure of herself. He encourages her to dress in a goth style that suits her and she uses this to start pursuing a boy while using The Creature to seek revenge on people who wrong her, to a degree.

It's all directed with a great deal of style and panache by director Zelda Williams. It's a period piece, set in 1989, and the period setting creates a level of surrealism in the story that is perfectly suitable to the oddball story. It's the 80s, but not the most typical, tropey, version of the 80s. Then there is the Diablo Cody of it all. The comedy of Lisa Frankenstein is acidic and dark, matching perfectly with the goth aesthetic that slowly comes to the fore as Lisa begins to find herself as a protagonist, moving from shy, sheltered, innocent, to looking like a Goth Madonna circa the Like a Virgin era.

The 80s lite production design and the Diablo Cody style of dark, dark comedy set Lisa Frankenstein apart as a singularly strange and fun horror comedy. Star Kathryin Newton proves to be a perfect vehicle for both the look and feel of the movie and the sense of humor which appears to fit her like a glove. Newton brings an oddball energy that, at first, doesn't feel like main character energy. It truly is as if she becomes the lead of the movie as she gains more confidence and that's a unique approach to crafting a lead character. Newton's performance is key to the tone of the film and she nailed it.

Lisa Frankenstein has a pitch black sense of humor and there is little on the light side to cut the bitterness. That's where the clever writing of Taffy comes in. Liza Soberano's Taffy steals scenes early on by simply not being a villain. Usually, the new, over-privileged and vapid sister is the height of villainy in a story like this. Cody, Williams, and Soberano refused to go that direction. Instead, Taffy's kindness mixed with Soberano's pitch perfect comic delivery, make her the lighter protagonist of the film, to a point. There is a line about a Miss Hawaiian Tropic contest from Taffy in the first act and it's a big laugh and a perfect tone-setter for her and the rest of the movie.

I really enjoyed Lisa Frankenstein. It has a cult potential to it. I can see people loving the aesthetic and really loving this version of 80s style. It's retro yet it feels fresh, it doesn't fall back on neon and needle drops. It's hazy and bright and an offset to the growing black aesthetic of Lisa and The Creature whose relationship has just a hint of classic 80s High School comedy to it. It's part Molly Ringwald and Ducky and a little Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in Heathers. If you enjoy that combination, Lisa Frankenstein is the movie for you.

Find my archive of more than 20 years and nearly 2000 movie reviews at Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast, wherever you listen to podcasts. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by making a monthly pledge or by leaving a one time tip. Thanks!


About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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Comments (11)

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  • /-\ 5 |-| 3 R2 months ago

    Carla G really got my attention in Fall of the House of Usher. Absolutely amazing performance there. Just having her in this is enough to make me want to watch it. But, great review, as always. Cheers!

  • Anna 2 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳

  • Asad Message2 months ago


  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

    Well written! Congrats!

  • A. Lenae2 months ago

    I like your take! And great piece. Appreciate your perspective, as you always seem to take in the tone with the movie and match it with your consideration and response. And drawing the comparison to Heathers just sealed the deal for me - definitely will watch!

  • JBaz2 months ago

    Ok, now I want to see this movie. Never heard of it , but dang. It sounds fun

  • Ashley Shiflett2 months ago

    Thank you for the review! Congrats on top story.

  • kp2 months ago

    thanks for the movie rec, and congrats on top story!

  • Mariann Carroll2 months ago

    Congratulation On Top Story !!!!!

  • Mariann Carroll2 months ago

    Thank you for this, as always great review. ❤️

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