Lisa Frankenstein Review

Lisa Frankenstein Is The Goth Girl Daydream

When I saw the first trailer for Lisa Frankenstein way back in November, I knew I had to see this movie. As a goth girl who spent her teenage years with book of epitaphs she read from regularly, and who wanted a zombie boyfriend more than anyone (sorry, Tina Belcher) this movie felt like it was made for me and my very niche fantasy.

The story is simple: Lisa Swallows (the incredibly talented Kathryn Newton) is an outcast who would rather spend her days writing poetry and hanging out in the cemetery (same here). And while I got bullied for this same behavior in the 2000s, it’s even worse for Lisa living in the 1980s — an era overflowing with ragers, keg parties, and all-around good times. It isn’t until Lisa’s favorite grave to visit gets struck by lightning, reanimating the man lying beneath (Cole Sprouse, who stole my heart in this movie completely and absolutely), that she finally has what she has been looking for — a friend. And once these two meet, delightfully violent hijinks ensue as they must procure the body parts to keep him together. Written by Diablo Cody and directed brilliantly by Zelda Williams, this film is essentially set out to be a fun romp with a love story sprinkled in.

The performances are wild in the very best way. Sprouse spends the movie not saying anything, but his comedic timing and facial expressions sell you exactly who The Creature is and truly endear you to him pretty much from the start (even underneath all that mud and gunk). Newton is a star through and through, perfectly capturing the romantic weird little goth girl who wants to be loved, sure, but in a way that captures her aesthetic. If Kathryn Newton isn’t the new scream queen, I don’t want to live on this planet anymore. These two are supported by some of the best side characters and performances I have seen in a while — namely, Liza Soberano as Taffy, Lisa’s well-meaning and popular step-sister, and Carla Gugino as Janet, Lisa’s particular, preppy, and downright evil stepmother. Soberano is adorable, immediately snatching your heart (unlike Lisa, with no murderous intent) and generally being so likable and normal in a movie that is immersed in the bizarre. Gugino plays messy mother better than anyone I know, and Janet was such a great villain— earning multiple laughs from me upon my first viewing and every subsequent viewing after.

Stylistically, the film draws upon Tim Burton influences for visuals and design, but I believe this is where the comparisons end — and that’s a good thing. While Burton is good, his stories tend to be about isolation and learning to grow past love or trauma. Lisa Frankenstein however, I believe, draws more from John Waters productions with a more us vs them mentality (think Cry Baby or Serial Mom, flawed protagonists who turn away from the mainstream and lead lives of crime — but they’re the good guys, and we love them.) Waters’ slice-of-life pieces about the truly bizarre is simply fun and campy, inviting the audience into a world we could never be a part of, no matter how tempting the candy-coated flamingo pink may be.

The contrast of Lisa and the Creature’s goth attire against the bright high school setting or the pink mansion Lisa lives in, on top of the violence and chaos they spawn, create this amazing marriage between Burton and Waters that make this world unlike anything we have ever seen before, but somehow felt like a dream come true for someone like me. It was like letting Beetlejuice loose in the Stepford Wives — a delicious recipe for the most hysterical disaster.

This is a film written and directed by weirdos, starring weirdos, for weirdos — and I think that’s why it resonates so deeply with those of us who are in that genre of personhood. I have seen unfair criticism of this film that say “nothing happens” when that is exactly the point.

There’s no lesson to be learned here — save for maybe one about love conquering all— and I think that’s a beautiful thing. This film simply exists as a fantasy, something to come back to when you had a bad day and need that piece of comfort (what if I had a cool zombie boyfriend from the 1800s to come back to instead of the same pasta dish I’ve been picking at for two days in my fridge?). Lisa Frankenstein is the daydream realized for the soul of every goth girl out there who was just like Lisa and simply wanted a friend, and some people never went through that phase.

It’s an old catchphrase, but one I think rings true when it comes to Ms. Frankenstein and her loyal and loving audience — the girlies who get it, get it. And the girlies who don’t…well, they’re missing out. Lisa Frankenstein is now available for streaming.