Lisa Frankenstein review: "A neat mash-up of high-school comedy and horror tropes"

Lisa Frankenstein
(Image: © Focus)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

A neat mash-up of high-school comedy and horror tropes. Pity it flounders in the final third, though.

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John Hughes’ Brat Pack movies meet Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic in this high-concept comedy, scripted by Juno and Jennifer’s Body scribe Diablo Cody. Set in 1989, it centers on Lisa (Kathryn Newton), a high-schooler who lives with her father (Joe Chrest), stepmother (Carla Gugino) and stepsister Taffy (Liza Soberano), yet prefers to spend her time at the local cemetery among the tombstones. 

Though she has a crush on the hunky editor of the school lit magazine (Henry Eikenberry), Lisa soon finds her real love – at the graveyard – when a corpse (Riverdale’s Cole Sprouse) comes back to life. He doesn’t speak and cries tears that smell like vomit. Nevertheless, hiding him at home in her closet, Lisa is smitten – and becomes more so as things get increasingly macabre. 

Directed by Zelda Williams (daughter of Robin), Lisa Frankenstein contains some very funny moments, including one exchange that involves a woeful misunderstanding of the word 'cerebral'. Another high point is the musical interlude featuring a version of REO Speedwagon’s 'Can’t Fight This Feeling', adeptly sung by a game Newton (who at times is a dead ringer for Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club). 

Sprouse gives a lively and expressive Edward Scissorhands-esque performance as 'The Creature', but sadly, the more violent the film gets, the less engaging it becomes. The final act also drifts, lacking bite, when it should arrow towards a darkly comic denouement. Still, filled with Cody’s trademark wit and some nifty 1980s design schemes, it’s a slick, sick ride with strong teen appeal. 

Lisa Frankenstein is in US theaters on February 9 and in UK cinemas on 1 March. 

For more, here's our guide to all the upcoming horror movies on the way.

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Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.