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“Lisa Frankenstein” Review

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Lisa+Frankenstein+was+released+to+theaters+Feb.+9th+and+was+released+to+digital+platforms+Feb.+27.
Courtesy of Focus Features
“Lisa Frankenstein” was released to theaters Feb. 9th and was released to digital platforms Feb. 27.

Days before couples exchange gooey cards, red roses, and boxes of chocolate, Zelda Williams’ “Lisa Frankenstein” hit theaters. This horror comedy stars femme fatale lead Kathryn Newton as “Lisa,” alongside, an emotional, reanimated corpse portrayed by costar Cole Sprouse, and a plethora of side characters including Lisa’s evil stepmother and emotionally unavailable father. This modern reimagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a bundle of laughter, wide-eyed shock, and deeply profound moments of contemplation woven throughout the fast-paced, riveting film.

“Lisa Frankenstein” follows high school-aged protagonist Lisa in the 1980s after she accidentally revives the corpse of a young man from the Victorian era. The unlikely pair set off on a quest to find some missing necessities and Lisa embarks on a journey of self-discovery and revenge while balancing her complicated family history.

The horror-comedy film by Focus Feature debuted with $3.6 million in its opening week across more than 3,000 theaters in the nation, according to Nash Information services. While you can still see the movie in theaters, it will also head to digital platforms beginning Feb. 27.

The premiere I attended for “Lisa Frankenstein” was not subtle about the film’s connection to the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday. Imagery featuring custom sweetheart candies printed with phrases like “Drop Dead,” “Get A Life,” and “Young Love” paired with neon pink backlighting and pink-colored font set the mood for the film. The aesthetic conveyed general female rage at the teenage experience, the pains of looking for true love, and the frustration of being a goth in a 1980s society that prized bright-colored clothing and high school jocks.

So what exactly drew people to watch “Lisa Frankenstein” once it was released? SMU film student Sydney Payne said she was drawn to the film in part because of the film’s aesthetic and general story idea.

“I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard at a movie in a while,” Payne said

Indeed, the witty, snappy, and sometimes sappy writing had some welcome parallels to that of the cult classic “Jennifer’s Body.” Besides the obvious connection of the writer Diablo Cody, the aesthetic appeal was a major calling card for “Lisa Frankenstein.”

On a technical level, “Lisa Frankenstein” relies heavily on skilled cinematography and artistic use of bright saturated color to set the “horror” tone of the movie within an authentic 80’s setting. The opening scene is a beautiful animated origin story of Lisa’s undead companion who we see buried in “Bachelor’s Grove,” the graveyard for unmarried men. This opening scene is the first of many juxtapositions of melancholy and hilarity.

It’s here that we first find Lisa, nestled against her favorite headstone, making a rubbing of the stone and adding her last name with a flourish. Flashing green and neon blue tanning-bed lighting paired with rollerblades and teased hair create an ominous setting that contrasts the alluring nostalgia of the decade. Transitions between scenes flowed smoothly, often utilizing blending techniques to create a continuous, fast-paced feeling as tensions increased within the film and characters’ emotions ran unchecked.

Kathryn Newton’s portrayal of Lisa can only be described as worryingly perfect. Lisa is a character that enchants as much as she shocks and scares her observers. Sometimes a bit cold-hearted, Lisa is different from a stereotypical “new girl” or misunderstood teenager. Instead, she grasps the audience by the hand and drags them through her journey of self-discovery -and revenge.

Cole Sprouse’s role as the Creature, an undead corpse with limited vocal capabilities, is captivating. He deftly utilizes facial expressions and mime to embody his vulnerable character.

Far from shying away from the gross aspects of an undead corpse, “Lisa Frankenstein’s” directors embraced the more unsavory bits of the Creature’s physical condition. Makeup effects gave Sprouse’s character leathery, rotted skin with a pale hue.

Were the makeup skills used on the Creature not convincing enough, the audience is reminded of his grotesque nature each time Lisa cringes and plugs her nose in response to his green excretions, and the frequent appearance of centipedes in his wake brings an eerie air of realism to the film.

Compelling aesthetics, tasteful cinematography, and entertaining characters are all strong elements in this production, but what turned “Lisa Frankenstein” from a horror film into a comedy was the laugh-out-loud dialogue.

A phrase like “he’s cerebral” to describe a heartthrob is just one example of the lighthearted banter that caused the premiere audience to laugh. These short, often monotone jokes are part of what makes Lisa such a compelling character, forcing the audience to root for a heroine of questionable morals.

“Lisa Frankenstein” should be next in line for your trip to the theater. Williams’ film is “Satire on the genre, campy, funny, and it takes the premise and it delivers on the premise,” Heather McKinny, an audience member attending with her husband said.

In this horror-comedy, what you see is what you get- I found myself laughing out loud throughout the film, eyes wide in shock as plot points came together, astounded at the sheer audacity of some characters.

“As far as the ending goes, I was surprised and it subverted my expectations in a sweet way,” said McKinny about the film’s finale.

“Lisa Frankenstein” met the expectations of the genre and audience members and even surpassed them.

If you’re looking for a way to find the perfect partner, Lisa’s methods can’t be condoned. However, if “Lisa Frankenstein teaches us anything it is to only rely on yourself to make your dreams come true, especially if those are romantic dreams. If life doesn’t give you a “happily-ever-after”, just take it.

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