Sometimes, you watch a movie, and it’s just right. Everything about it is right. The story is right, the atmosphere is right, the humor is right, the characters and actors are right, and the length is right. Lisa Frankenstein is one such right movie, although, of course, it’s intricately and deliciously wrong. A delightful gothic romance meets monster movie meets body horror meets chick flick meets ‘80s nostalgia film, Lisa Frankenstein will make total sense to everyone it’s meant for. And trust me, you’ll know if that happens to be you.
Lisa Frankenstein creates an outsider’s fairy tale. Some fairy tales have damsels in distress, waiting in a tower for a dashing prince to sweep them off their feet so they can finally live happily ever after. But this fairy tale is for the goth ghouls among us, the ones who hang out in cemeteries and morbidly delight in confusing everyone who comes within reach. This one is for the people who never quite fit in but dream of decaying towers, floating nightgowns, and creatures that lurk in the gloom. Some fairy tales hinge on true love’s kiss. Lisa Frankenstein, meanwhile, hinges on its protagonist sewing a new—ehm—appendage on for her undead paramour so that they can enjoy their love in a whole new way. (Trust me, it works)
Most fairy tales imagine their heroes riding off into the sunset. Lisa Frankenstein does too, but it wants its viewers to know that it’s okay if riding off into the sunset comes at the price of blood, guts, and severed connections with everyone you know. We’ll cheers to that.
From the outset, Lisa Frankenstein seemed like it would be a very queer movie. It comes from Diablo Cody, after all, who created the iconic queer masterpiece, Jennifer’s Body. I am delighted to share that it is indeed a very queer movie and even queerer than that. As we’ve discussed before at Nerdist, outsider narratives are often queer regardless of the literal sexuality of the characters. Lisa Frankenstein upholds this idea while taking it to a whole new level.
Although it could seem like the romance in Lisa Frankenstein is of the straight variety, even at just the most basic level, a romance between a person that hangs out at graveyards daydreaming of witchcraft and dreamy desecrations and an undead monster made up of human parts sewn together can only be so straight. But delving deeper than that, although the romance in Lisa Frankenstein takes place between a man-shaped figure and a woman-shaped figure, neither quite fits the traditional and social bill for either label. And that’s a beautiful, and rare, characterization for a movie to center.
We won’t get too far into the specifics of the film here, but in both big and small ways, Lisa Frankenstein manages to capture salient points of what it’s like to be othered. Suffice it to say that at the zenith of her strength, Lisa comes marching out in an outfit revealed to be her step-sister’s Halloween Witch costume. That’s the queer experience in a nutshell, baby. Lisa Frankenstein‘s narrative glories in this queerness on many levels and pushes the narrative to places that not many Hollywood movies commit to going.
Hand in hand with this idea is the delightful way Lisa Frankenstein presents its violence. And that’s in a totally unapologetic (and honestly hilarious fashion). At times, Lisa has moments of confronting what she’s done, but she’s never punished for it by outward forces; her agency always remains her own. This movie reminds me strongly of The Craft, but whereas that movie had the good fortune of its main characters turn on them, this one, wiser in this modern day, lets Lisa and the Creature celebrate their new discoveries and not necessarily be knocked down because of them.
Lisa Frankenstein also yields so much joy. Between the shared horror and chick flick trope of the hallway strut, the classic fashion montage moment, and the good old-fashioned dance and scream-singing in the living room scene, we get to see Lisa thrive as Lisa Frankenstein unfolds. It is a great time for all involved. Not to mention, personally, I don’t have very much ’80s nostalgia, but through the power of an incredible soundtrack filled with hits from the ’80s, fabulous use of fashion and makeup, and hilariously accurate references, this movie gave it to me. Lisa Frankenstein also managed to perfectly parody the inappropriateness of the ’80s to great effect and hilariousness.
And although its queer characters were the obvious heroes, Lisa Frankenstein filled its world with incredible characters, both good and bad. Carla Gugino inhabits the role of a wicked ’80s stepmother exactly right, to the shock of no one. Gugino steps into the shoes of the unlikeable, self-righteous, narcissistic IP (intuitive person) with such fabulous flair that you definitely want to punch her in the face every time she’s on screen.
Additionally, Liza Soberano, who plays Taffy, Lisa’s more conventional, sweet cheerleader type step-sister, seems like she’ll be just another mean girl, but steals the show and your heart by the end of the movie. Not to mention Joe Chrest, who seems to have become THE distracted/completely oblivious Hollywood 80s dad, does it again in Lisa Frankenstein. (Chrest plays Mike Wheeler’s dad on Stranger Things.)
Finally, Lisa Frankenstein‘s story arrives, tells you its tale, and then departs at exactly the right time. That’s a gift of insight that not many movies have. The narrative is tight, and it knows what it wants to share. Not a single moment of the film drags, and everything it has to say is worth listening to.
To conclude, Lisa Frankenstein is a gorgeous movie. At times, it’s irreverent and shocking, at others hilarious and perfectly sweet, and there are even points when the film offers quiet introspection and wise words on grief, love, and other matters. It may even leave you saying, “Edward Cullen, who?” It’s worth mentioning, too, that horror fans will likely feel delighted with this Frankenstein retelling and greatly enjoy picking up all the genre Easter eggs the movie buries.
So, if you’ve ever wistfully sighed while dreaming a darkly beautiful daydream, don’t miss out.
Lisa Frankenstein releases in theaters on February 9.