“Lisa Frankenstein”: a modern ‘80s cult classic 

­”Lisa Frankenstein”

3.5/5 ***-

“Lisa Frankenstein” is a 2024 horror comedy directed by Zelda Williams. In 1989, high school student and social outcast Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton) is still processing the brutal murder of her mother. Since then, her father has remarried and Lisa gains a stepsister, popular cheerleader Taffy (Liza Soberano). Lisa spends most of her time in the small, abandoned cemetery in town where she hangs out near the tombstone of a young, Victorian-era man, who ends up coming to life. Lisa and the Creature (Cole Sprouse) grow close throughout the film and, in a strange turn of events, eventually fall in love. 

The film is heavily influenced by cult classics from the ‘80s like “Heathers,” “Edward Scissorhands” and “Beetlejuice,” along with being a fun twist on the “Frankenstein” story. With the colorful houses and sets along with the extremely ‘80s fashion, the film screams ‘80s cult classic. That, combined with the campiness of the film, makes for a very fun viewing experience. The film also references a couple of cult horror films as well, my personal favorite being when Lisa says, “damn it, Janet.” Janet (Carla Gugino) is Lisa’s stepmother, and the line references the song “Dammit, Janet” from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the epitome of cult classics. 

The film’s overall arc is Lisa managing to overcome her trauma. After the murder of her mother, Lisa was diagnosed with selective mutism, where in certain situations she does not speak. Her father getting remarried to the narcissistic and horrible Janet did not help matters. Janet views her taking  Lisa in as an act of charity, and when Lisa broke a mirror after being at a party where her drink was spiked, she scolds her rather than trying to figure out what was wrong. Janet goes so far that she almost sends Lisa to an institution, which the Creature overhears. He responds by killing Janet and stealing her ear (it is still a strange film). 

What makes Lisa’s growth ironic is that she begins to learn how to live again with the help of an undead man. Through helping the Creature regain the body parts that he is missing, she is also getting revenge on all the people who have wronged her. Lisa, through helping the Creature, also begins to grow out of her shell. She becomes more confident in herself and begins to wear clothes that reflect herself more. A great visualization of Lisa’s path to healing from her trauma is the use of an ax throughout the film. Her mother was murdered by an ax and that event uprooted her entire life. She shut down, stopped talking and stopped being social. Then, the Creature uses an ax to murder someone who wronged Lisa twice. Instead of being horrified by someone Lisa trusts using an object that caused her so much pain, she embraces it. She reclaims it. She moves on from a victim to a survivor into a thriver.  

Overall, “Lisa Frankenstein” is a really fun film that does a wonderful job paying homage to the campy horror/comedy cult classics of the ‘80s while still being its own thing. While I am tired of the “evil stepmother” trope, I really appreciate the film giving Lisa and Taffy a good relationship. Also, the development of the relationship between Lisa and the Creature was really sweet and really fun to watch. It is just a really fun film to watch with friends.