Written by: Adam Vaughn | February 8th, 2024
Lisa Frankenstein (Zelda Williams, 2024) 3 out of 5 stars
After working in shorts and music videos, director Zelda Williams makes her feature debut with Lisa Frankenstein, which premieres just in time for every couple’s favorite holiday. The film follows Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton, Freaky), a shy and reclusive high-school girl whose mother is murdered. Lisa has trouble fitting in with the other girls, including her stepsister Taffy (Liza Soberano, Alone/Together), and the most social interaction she has is with the tombstone of a long-deceased gentleman (Cole Sprouse, Five Feet Apart). When lighting strikes, and the corpse is reanimated and at Lisa’s doorstep, Lisa finds not only a companionship she has long been waiting for, but a newfound, potentially “killer’confidence.
Lisa Frankenstein will surely appease all the rom-com fans, the setting and characters screaming teenage angst and quirky comedic timing. Its humorous beats include various dynamic and loveable performances from the main cast, among whom are Carla Gugino (Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher series), and Joe Chrest (Quiz Lady), as well as the rest of the teen ensemble. And at least at first, Williams’ film has a sharp and saturated aesthetic, a tremendous homage to both the classic Universal Monsters and 1980s throwback horror.
Once the lighting strikes, and the plot kicks into full motion, the film starts to feel immensely mechanical, pushing through plot point after plot point of an all too familiar storyline. The classic theme of a woman discovering herself, accompanied by her best friend (soon to turn lover) is an overrated premise that offers little in terms of surprise or deeper, more substantial storytelling. While the cast and pacing never cease to entertain, one has to turn one’s brain off in order to enjoy the gimmicky timing and horror elements that are more suggestive than terrifying. Truly, Lisa Frankenstein is a fun and entertaining feature, but misses out on the chance to go above and beyond in storytelling and main ideas.
As a feature-length debut, Lisa Frankenstein should establish Zelda Williams as a cinematic artist to watch. The direction and performances will carry the film’s success far enough, yet as stated before, it may be a film designed to sit back and enjoy, but is less designed to entice a greater depth of thinking or insight. I think it will be a hit on Valentine’s Day, however, catering to the lovestruck nature of the season.