Let’s play “what if…” for a sec. (No gimmick infringement to Marvel intended.)
What if John Hughes called up Tim Burton and said “Let’s make a movie!”? Sure, that is a question that under normal circumstances would seem impossible to answer, but Diablo Cody (who seems to be a combination of both of them, only channeling both at the same time with Jennifer’s Body) has it with the latest film she has written and given to Zelda Williams (yes, Robin’s daughter… Old Man Rob checking in here) to direct with the witty and smart Lisa Frankenstein.
Kathryn Newton is the title character, a senior in high school who moves to a new school after the death of her mother. Her father has remarried as part of the relocation, so she gains a stepmother, Janet (Carla Gugino), and stepsister, Taffy (Liza Soberano), as she tries to come to terms with her life in the jungle known as 1989. She spends a lot of time in the local graveyard taking charcoal rubbings of the graves, drawn to one specifically of a young man. During an extreme storm, he is brought back to life and seeks her out as his new soulmate.
And then, it gets weird. In the best possible ways.
I know what you may be thinking: “Rob, you don’t do horror movies; what the heck are you doing reviewing THIS?”. You see, that’s the thing; this isn’t the kind of horror (which may be a bit loose in its definition) film that I would avoid. I don’t dig “slasher” films or those meant to make me jump out of my chair and scream like a child while this film is more of a dark comedy that has some creepy moments. Even the “gore” that is used is less done as gross-out moments and more subtle and played for the laughs it is intended for.
I get the feeling that Newton did a LOT of research on the years that encompassed my high school career because she not only fully embraces who Lisa is but also the time she lives in. Combine that with a script that works on every level and a soundtrack that absolutely as the kids say “slaps” (it opens with “The Promise” by When in Rome, so you already have me there) that even has an updated version of an ‘80s classic by Williams’ video collaborator and early ‘00s staple JoJo (not the one from Jodeci) that elevates this way above the “cult” status that many will see this to have based simply on the trailer.
Whether for the nostalgia or comedic angle, Lisa Frankenstein is a film that can be enjoyed by the teenage crowd and up. Although it really fits in to what should have been an October release, it is not just for that time of year. There are even a couple of fun Easter Eggs that sit within the dialogue and set design that made me smile here. This is definitely a “popcorn” film and should be enjoyed with friends and snacks, prepared for a crazy good time!