Lisa Frankenstein

What if someone were to take John HughesWeird Science, a film about a couple of teenaged boys who literally make their dream woman, and turn it on its head with a female-centric take on the story?

That’s exactly what Academy award-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody and first-time director Zelda Williams have done with their Lisa Frankenstein, a coming of rage story that is D.O.A. despite its ambitious attempts to breathe new life into the under-appreciated undead horror romance genre.

"isn’t quite as smart and entertaining as it thinks it is"

There aren’t many things more traumatizing than trying to survive high school other than, maybe, having to switch schools in the middle of the semester. What if you have to switch schools because your mother was axe-murdered in your living room? That’s what happened to Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania), the awkward high school junior trying to adjust to her new family following her mother’s demise and her father’s sudden remarriage.

Despite the acceptance by her perpetually happy cheerleader step-sister Taffy (Liza Soberano, Alone/Together), Lisa just can’t escape her own awkwardness, and only finds consolation in the abandoned Victorian-era Bachelor Cemetery where she tends to the grave of a young man who died in 1837.

Whatever it takes to get through, right? Well, one stormy night Lisa finds her way to the man’s gravesite and confesses her wish to be done with her life and to join the man in his world beyond. And wouldn’t you know it, the wish gets misinterpreted, and up from the ground comes sprouting a filthy, worm-infested corpse (Cole Sprouse, “Riverdale”) bearing the likeness of the man on the headstone.

Realizing there’s been a big mistake, yet still feeling obligated to care for the now undead man, Lisa sets out on the quest to help him replace some crucial body parts, while he unknowingly helps her come out of her shell.Lisa Frankenstein

Cody’s paranormal love story – as lovingly whackadoodle as it is – is fiendishly clever, often very funny, and even hits on some resonant themes to which we can all relate; themes such as fate, fitting in, self-determination, and the idea that even weirdos need love. Yet, despite loads of innate charm and palatable sweetness, it isn’t quite as smart and entertaining as it thinks it is. And that’s due mostly to Williams’ execution which falls a bit flat.

The main culprit is Williams’ inability to find a consistent tone throughout the film. Her narrative is disjointed, even herky-jerky at times, seriously hobbling her attempts at providing an addictively biting spin on Mary Shelley's 1818 classic.

Despite the film's shortcomings, there are moments of visual creativity – particularly the extravagant set designs and the highly imaginative opening credit sequence – which offer glimpses of what could have been. In addition, Newton absolutely nails her rebellious, late ‘80s, comically unhinged weirdo character, while Sprouse manages to turn his rotting, stinking character into a believable romance figure despite his lack of dialogue.

In the end, Lisa Frankenstein fails to deliver on its promise of a fresh take on the timeless tale. While there are elements of cleverness and creativity, the thematic exploration of embracing one's quirks and finding love despite societal norms is overshadowed by a wildly inconsistent tone which leaves the story stumbling in the shadow of its source material.

2/5 stars

Film Details

Lisa Frankenstein

MPAA Rating: PG-13.
101 mins
: Zelda Williams
Diablo Cody
Kathryn Newton; Liza Soberano; Cole Sprouse
: Comedy | Horror | Romance
Dig Up Someone Special.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You smell like a hot toilet at the carnival"
Theatrical Distributor:
Focus Features
Official Site:
Release Date:
February 9, 2024
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: A coming of RAGE love story about a teenager and her crush, who happens to be a corpse. After a set of horrific circumstances bring him back to life, the two embark on a journey to find love, happiness - and a few missing body parts.


Lisa Frankenstein