Lisa Frankenstein (Blu-ray)

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.

April 1, 2024 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

As of this writing, it’s been over two centuries since Mary Shelley wrote her classic novel Frankenstein. Who’d have guessed that over 200 years later we’d still be getting fodder from it to entertain the masses? Let’s face it, the story is rather timeless and with Lisa Frankenstein, we find yet another variant that breathes new life (pardon the pun) into a the classic tale. Writer Diablo Cody, who won an Academy Award for her work in Juno, teams with Zelda Williams (daughter of Robin Williams) to take this tale, put it in the 80’s, reverse the roles and boom – there ya go. But while imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, I’ve always been of the mindset that a story should be able to stand on its own. Put it this way – in 200 years are we going to look at this film and consider it a work of unimaginable fiction or is this just another homage to the classic tale? Let’s dive in and find out.

Set in the late 80’s, 1989 to be exact, we find Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton), an awkward teen who lives with her Dad (Joe Chrest), stepsister (Lisa Soberano) and stepmom (Carla Gugino). For fun, Lisa hangs out in an abandoned cemetery where she cares for the grave of a long-deceased young man. It so happens that the grave is struck by lightning during a freak storm causing “the creature” (Cole Sprouse) to, you guessed it, rise from the dead. After a bit of housekeeping, Lisa uses the corpse to exact some revenge on those who weren’t so nice to her. Also of note, the creature is missing a few limbs, so Lisa needs to procure those as well. It’s the act of collecting these new appendages that’s given her life some newfound meaning and while doing this, she begins to undergo a metamorphosis in her personality. Who says a long-deceased man coming back to life can’t make a girl popular?

I’m sure it’s no consequence that due to the performance and/or success of Freaky, that Kathryn Newton is in this role. She’s established herself as a newfound “scream queen” for lack of a better term. And that’s fine, she excels in the role(s) and seems to have a good time with them. Equally impressive, though for all intents and purposes – mute, is Cole Sprouse. Proving that less is more, his performance is eerily reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s in Edward Scissorhands (which this movie shares a lot with). While the subject matter might be considered a bit to much for younger audiences, I actually think that this light-hearted approach is what sells the film. Couple that with the writing of Diablo Cody and direction of Zelda Williams and you’ve got a tribute to the undead – 21st century style (well, er…late 20th century style).

Video: How’s it look?

I’m still dumbfounded at how so many movies these days can look so…good! I recently dug out a Blu-ray of Hitch (one of the first Blu-ray’s made) and I have no idea why I wanted to watch it. I mention this because, at the time, I remember being thoroughly impressed with the quality of a Blu-ray. Flash forward a couple of decades and now every movie that comes out looks pristine. The 1.85:1 AVC HD encode showcases the film’s colorful palette, detail is incredible (just looking at “Frankenstein”) you can see the detail and depth that the costume designers went through. Black levels are spot on as is contrast. I honestly couldn’t find a single thing to complain about and I’m willing to bet you won’t either. Top notch.

Audio: How’s it sound?

I’m sure, if they wanted to, they could have added a Dolby Atmos track on this disc, but the included DTS HD Master Audio mix isn’t exactly bad. Not by any stretch. Vocals are pitch perfect and lack any distortion, the 80’s era soundtrack fills the room with vibes from an era gone by and surrounds offer up some much needed ambiance. It’s nothing mind-blowing by any means, but it’s a nice, well-rounded track that’s sure to sasitfy.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Audio Commentary – Director Zelda Williams gives a pretty nice, and heartfelt track here. You wouldn’t think that it’s something that would be too in-depth, but I actually found it a fairly engaging track. The usual topics are covered from casting to shooting locations to the reason to shoot the movie in the 80’s and so on.
  • Deleted Scenes – Five total and these were cut for pacing. I was fine with them being on the cutting room floor.
    • Get Me Out of Hell!
    • Knock Knock
    • Music Lovers
    • Incredible Friend
    • Breaking News
  • Gag Reel – They’re having so much fun on the set!
  • Resurrecting the 1980’s – Set in 1989, the film is a loving tribute to the wacky, tacky, yet totally awesome 80s. Every department of production embraced the stylized world Diablo Cody created in her script and brought their A-game to making this colorful world a reality.
  • An Electric Connection – While it’s no easy feat to turn a 19th century dead guy into the perfect boyfriend, this piece explores Lisa and her charming Creature and what makes their relationship work. Kathryn Newton, Cole Sprouse, and filmmakers explore how Lisa and Creature really need each other to truly thrive, why Creature is the “perfect man,” and Lisa’s choice at the end of the film.
  • A Dark Comedy Duo – Well-known for her ability to subvert genres, Diablo Cody delves into the inspiration for the movie, what made her want to give the Frankenstein story a youthful, modern twist full of both horror and hilarity, and why Zelda Williams was the perfect choice to bring her story to life.

The Bottom Line

I had no idea what to expect when Lisa Frankenstein arrived. But I have to admit that I kind of liked it. It’s fun, clever and yes – even a bit cute. Kathryn Newton is establishing herself as a bona fide star and this is the latest notch in her belt. Universal’s disc sports an amazing-looking transfer and with the selection of extras, I can safely recommend this one.

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