Review: Lisa Frankenstein


I’m a sucker for classic monster movies. There’s something undefinable about the genre that always keeps me glued to the screen. There’s a lot of charm in retro films like Dracula and The Bride of Frankenstein. Yes, they’re horror films, but they’re not actively scary. Instead, they capture a certain tone and mood of their time, something that Lisa Frankenstein tries to recapture.

Directed by Zelda Williams, the daughter of late actor Robin Williams in her debut feature film, Lisa Frankenstein is an amalgamation of all sorts of different genres and periods. There’s obviously classic monster horror like in Frankenstein, but also a lot of zany 80s horror comedy tropes found in films like Teen Wolf, and even some romantic reflections of the genre like Warm BodiesIt tries to be a little bit of everything and while that’s usually a recipe for disaster, it actually works here. Zelda Williams never lost sight of her goal and the film never lost sight of what it was trying to be – fun.

LISA FRANKENSTEIN - Official Trailer [HD] - Only In Theaters February 9

Lisa Frankenstein
Director: Zelda Williams
Release Date: February 9, 2024 (Theatrical)
Rating: PG-13

After her mother died at the hands of an axe-wielding murderer, Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton) becomes a reclusive outcast who spends most of her time thinking about corpses and graveyards. After being invited to a party by her step-sister, Taffy (Liza Soberano), and unintentionally taking PCP, she wakes up to find that her favorite gravestone was hit by lightning and the Victorian corpse within it, played by Cole Sprouse, comes to life and seeks her out. At first, Lisa is terrified by this, but she opens up with the corpse more than any living being and starts to develop a friendship with it.

The film subtly flows between a bunch of different genres throughout its runtime. In one scene it may be a comedy with jokes that feel like they were ripped straight out of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I admit, the film never reaches the highs of the 80s comedies that it’s imitating and probably will lose a lot of luster on repeat viewings, but it’s funny enough and kept me chuckling throughout the film. Then in the next scene, Lisa Frankenstein may shift into a moment straight from a low-budget horror movie where body parts are severed and blood is flying everywhere. It’s never overwhelming – this is a PG-13 movie after all – but I like how a lot of the more gruesome violence is left offscreen for us to imagine.

You can easily tell at points that this film came from the same writer of Jennifer’s Body. I don’t mean that as an insult in any way though. You can accuse Jennifer’s Body of being gory, shlocky, and definitely of its time, but it was still entertaining. There was just something so fun about watching a bunch of teenagers react to some occult scenarios in a way that only someone who understands how to make teenagers in a horror movie endearing could create. The same can be said about Lisa Frankenstein. I was frequently smiling and chuckling at all of the little moments and the clever nods and winks to the classic Frankenstein story, like how Lisa has an Aunt Shelley. It’s cheap, sure, but it’s a subtle one that can go over a lot of people’s heads, so I dig it. If you’re going into the film expecting gore, blood, and carnage, then you’re going to be severely disappointed as there are really only three scenes of it and they don’t last for too long either. But if I had to choose one genre that Lisa Frankenstein best represents, it’s romance.

Review: Lisa Frankenstein

Copyright: Focus Features

The relationship that develops between Lisa and the corpse is a fun one. Despite never being able to speak, Cole Sprouse does a lot physically to convey his character’s thoughts in a fun way. We see how much he cares for Lisa as the film progresses, but their first couple of interactions are probably the weakest part of the film. That’s mostly because the beginning of the film is filled with a lot of plot holes that you’ll need to overlook to get to the point of it. For example, the monster goes right to Lisa’s house after he’s revived by a bolt of lightning, but there’s no explanation of how he found her house, knew to go to her house, or even knew who she was.

Once Lisa Frankenstein establishes that relationship though, then it’s smooth sailing. All of the cast are fun in their own way, whether it be from how genuinely supportive and reliable Taffy is to her adoptive sister despite having very little in common, to their mom, played by Carla Gugino, who is so aggressively self-absorbed you can’t wait for her inevitably death. This is a cast that’s just fun to interact with to the point where even minor supporting characters usually have a good scene or two associated with them. There aren’t any bad performances here and everyone looks like they’re having fun with the material.

But as the movie went on, I kept on coming back to how much I enjoyed the romantic elements of the film. I don’t mean that I love the romance that’s inside of it, though Lisa and the corpse do make a lovely couple, but I’m more referring to how to film approaches dark romanticism. There’s a fascination with death here, with Lisa confiding in the monster’s gravestone how much she wishes she could join him in death, with the film’s final coda reaffirming this. When all of the teen drama and murdering fades away, the reinterpretation of Gothic horror classics in a modern light is what’s most fascinating to me about the film. That and the lighting. There are so many shots in this film that are absolutely killer if only because of how good the lighting is.

Review: Lisa Frankenstein

Copyright: Focus Features

It’s not often you get a Gothic romance that actually manages to succeed at what it does. The last time I remember a film like that was Crimson Peak, but even then that film had its own set of issues that stopped it from being a truly effective romance. And like all of the best Gothic romances, or even just romances in general, the film ends in tragedy, but a beautiful tragedy. Lisa Frankenstein, despite its rough beginnings, only gets better and better as the movie goes on. It’s not a long film, running just north of 90 minutes, but it uses its time to the point where there’s hardly any fat that needs to be trimmed. Maybe there could have been a bit more time to flesh out more of the minor characters that are only there for a joke or two, but that’s a nitpick at best.

Lisa Frankenstein is a melting pot of a film that will satisfy most people who go into it. If you’re interested in this film as a send-up of horror classics, there are enough monstrous moments to keep audiences entertained and satisfied. For those looking for comedic moments, the film’s 80s vibes are all-encompassing and the jokes not only perfectly capture that time but also manage to sneak in a few jokes that horror fans can get behind. But if you want to see a romance, this is easily one of the best romances I’ve seen in recent years. The chemistry between its leads and the pining for Gothic romances separates this film from a lot of modern-day romances. Granted, it’ll take a bit of time for the film to get going, but when it does it’ll leave an impression on you.

If you’re looking for a nice film to see this Valentine’s Day with your special someone and you can’t stand more traditional rom-coms, then Lisa Frankenstein is for you. Consider me very interested in whatever Zelda Williams does next. She’s definitely one to watch.




Lisa Frankenstein may take its time getting started, but once it does viewers will find its a smart blend of different genres and styles that only gets better the more it goes on.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.