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  • Writer's pictureLucas Friesen

Lisa Frankenstein

Lisa Frankenstein is a 2024 Universal movie directed by Zelda Williams. The movie was written by Diablo Cody. It stars Kathryn Newton with support from Cole Sprouse, Liza Soberano and Carla Gugino. On a budget of $13-million, it has made $8.6-million at the box office.

The daughter of the late, great Robin Williams, Lisa Frankenstein is Zelda’s first feature as a director. She does an amicable job, even if there is nothing unique about her directing style. However, she made a great movie and that’s the most important thing. Yes, you can have a unique style but it’s of no importance if the movie is bad. As a young director, Williams has time to develop her personal style. With Lisa Frankenstein, she proves that she can direct a very entertaining movie.

Cody is quite well-known, having written Juno, Jennifer’s Body and Tully. Her latest outing, Lisa Frankenstein, is another feather in the cap of a successful screenwriting career. It has sharp dialogue and a simple yet effective premise. Early in the movie, Newton’s character, Lisa Swallows, says, “It smells like camp in here.” No one line better summarizes this movie’s wonderfully bizarre world.

The movie taps into the loud, synthesized aesthetic made popular in the 1980s by artists like Cyndi Lauper and Madonna. It also has a neon-gothic aesthetic. It is quite a bright movie, from a mise en scène perspective, with colourful sets, neon lighting and frequent day settings. This is juxtaposed by the story’s dark tones and lack of morals. We cheer for Newton and Sprouse as their deeds become more and more sinister with no character or moral compass to tell us what is right or wrong. The movie embraces its darkness and, by the end, it had me grinning from ear to ear.

There is often a sentiment in modern movies that, if you’re going to do something silly or on the nose, it is best to lean into it. This is evident in movies like Wonka where the characters sometimes comment on the absurdity of their situation. Not in Lisa Frankenstein. Instead of leaning into their absurdity and calling attention to it, the movie’s world accepts its strangeness as matter of fact and normal. Of course, a corpse gets reanimated in a lightning storm. Of course, Newton’s character reacts the way she does when the corpse breaks into her house despite her trauma from past break ins. Cody blends her absurd world with the real world. As the bodies inevitably start to drop, Newton and Sprouse must deal with the real-world consequences of their actions, even if their relationship premise is entirely other worldly.

A teenage girl wearing black sitting at a school desk, holding a pen, with red nail polish.

It has wonderful acting, especially by Newton. I’ve seen her in Ben is Back, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Pokémon Detective Pikachu. With her lead role in Lisa Frankenstein, Newton has landed on my map of up-and-coming actors to watch. I loved her transformation throughout the movie, which was most evident through her attitude and costumes. (The movie’s costume design was by Meagan McLaughlin.) Sprouse was marvelous as The Creature. He finds great success by silently emoting. His silence was a perfect match for Newton’s character, who has a fascination with silent movies. This is evident when she says her favourite movie star is Pabst, not referring to the beer she’s holding but to the silent-era director, G. W. Pabst, who became famous for his female-centric movies. It is also evident from the glow-in-the-dark stars and moon in her room that are from Georges Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon.

I can’t recommend Lisa Frankenstein enough. This gothic love tale is a perfect movie for a not-so-scary Halloween watch or an oddball Valentine’s Day selection. Go see it in theatres, while you still can, so it makes its budget back and studios will have incentive to continue making movies like this. Kudos to Williams and Cody for making such a ridiculously fun, absurdly weird and unapologetically dark movie. Long live the gothic badass.

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