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Lisa Frankenstein

You don’t have to be a horror aficionado to appreciate the comic/weird vibe of “Lisa Frankenstein,” a teen-rage coming of age story, set in the 1980’s with blue eye shadow and jellies, and a titular protagonist (Kathryn Newton), actually named Lisa Swallows, who courts a corpse. At least it’s better than the soulless living adults like her ex-cheerleader, Stepford stepmom (Carla Gugino) or clueless father (Joe Christ). Her sister, Taffy (Liza Soberano), is not much better; in fact she’s quickly becoming vacuous like stepmom.


No wonder Lisa falls for a real living-dead Victorian (Cole Sprouse), whose emergence from the bachelor cemetery is a boon for a love-starved Goth queen. Although Lisa is just as selfish as the rest of her 1980’s teen generation, Newton, writer Diablo Cody, and director Zelda Williams give her just enough sarcastic wit and sexual hunger to make her come alive and, turning the genre tables, more appealing to her peers the more gothic she becomes.


Never do we doubt the corpse is loveable (think Edward Scissorhands) as she builds his body back (she specializes as a seamstress in her hobbies) just as Dr. Frankenstein did 200 years ago, some parts essential for a horny teen. Mary Shelley would approve.


In another genre twist, the teens throughout the film are not your usual vampish enemies, mean girls if you will, but rather occasionally concerned with each loss or abduction as if loving family were their main concern. Make no mistake, they are the genre-required baddies with an occasional gentleness unheard of in this world.


Throughout, Diablo Cody’s dialogue reminds us not to take the macabre filth seriously, for this active corpse should eventually go back to the grave and we to the ironic imbalances of the living. “Lisa Frankenstein” amuses by subverting the very subgenre she is using to give us a mashup of tropes like no other horror tale.

After all, being a teen and finding true love and true sex is a full-time job that in a genre twist like this makes a girl even more desirable. Go figure.

Lisa Frankenstein

Director: Zelda Williams (Never)

Screenplay: Diablo Cody (Juno)

Cast: Kathryn Newton (Freaky), Liza Soberano (Alone/Together)

Run Time: 1h 41m

Rating: PG-13


John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take out of WCBE 90.5 FM, Columbus, Ohio. Contact him at

John DeSando