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Flix at :48: 'Lisa Frankenstein'

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Movie poster for the comedy horror film "Lisa Frankenstein"
Theatrical release poster

Lisa is not your typical teenager going to a new high school in 1989. She paints her fingernails with White Out, burns her hair with a crimper, and spends a lot of time hanging out alone in an abandoned graveyard in the woods. After a giant storm and a miraculously placed lightning bolt, a male corpse from this graveyard is reanimated, taking Lisa on a journey to find belonging, happiness, murder and a couple missing body parts.

Lisa Frankenstein is a youthful coming-of-age story that meets an absurd horror comedy. This film has confident costumes and set designs of a delightfully 80s style, but it doesn't rely entirely on this window dressing for the comedy. (I'm looking at you, Stranger Things.)

Screenwriter Diablo Cody, who hasn't written a feature film since the 2018 comedy Tully, has nicely blended kooky female cravings with simmering teen angst. This writing style lets the female actors have a blast with campy line deliveries that I'm still laughing about today. Some of these lines include, "I'm really sorry you got electrocuted, Lisa," and, "You don't have to worry about anything because your mom's already been murdered!"

Actress Kathryn Newton (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, 2023), who plays the title role, is fun to watch as a shy poetry nerd who turns into a defiant misfit. The scenes of her screaming in terror are like watching a kid overacting in a community theater production, giving an ironically hilarious nod to trashy horror films of the 80s like My Bloody Valentine (1981) or Creepshow (1982). But the two supporting roles by Carla Gugino (The Fall of the House of Usher, 2023) and Liza Soberano (Alone/Together, 2019) are ferociously funny and should not be missed.

Lisa Frankenstein is rated PG-13, so it's a great option for young viewers and doesn't have any gory violence. (But it definitely infers some violence.) This film is silly, loose, and juvenile, but all of that works because it doesn't try to be anything more than that. It's following in the footsteps of subversive dark comedies from the 80s like Gremlins (1984), Re-Animator (1985), and Heathers (1988).

As the feature film directorial debut of Zelda Williams (Robin Williams' daughter), Lisa Frankenstein is not without plot holes or moments lacking a snappy bite. (How does the male zombie know where to find Lisa to invade her home? How does the tanning bed malfunction as a consistent electrocution device? Why are some of Lisa's monologues flat or boring?) Maybe parts of this film are too watered down to reach a wider and less adventurous range of viewers. But it's entertaining, it will get people laughing in the theater and it will remind viewers that love develops in all shapes and sizes.

Casey T. Allen is a native of Utah who graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree in English in 2007. He has worked in many capacities throughout USU campus and enjoys his time at UPR to continually exercise his writing.