Bite-Size Review: Nostalgic Fun in Lisa Frankenstein

Kathryn Newton is no stranger to horror audiences. With a starring role in Freaky, a fan favorite recurring guest spot on tv’s Supernatural, and an upcoming role in the curious ballerina-vampire flick Abigail, she is well on her way to becoming a certified Scream Queen, a mantle she more than owns with the title role in Lisa Frankenstein, which releases on February 9.

Newton stars as the eponymous Lisa, a misfit teenager in the late 1980s, suffering through her senior year at a new high school following a family trauma – with a perky new stepsister and callous stepmother to boot. With a fixation on the macabre, Lisa develops a one-sided relationship with the desolate grave of a young man in a nearby abandoned cemetery, tending to the stone and spilling her secrets without realizing what her graveyard heart-to-hearts could do until a fortuitous lightning storm changes everything.

There is literally nothing about this film that I did not love. The nostalgia is on point, portraying the era not from the viewpoint of what a 20-something THINKS the 1980s were like, but far closer to the reality – from the struggle of too much hairspray to the pain of wearing jelly shoes, the film hits home with countless nostalgic easter eggs that will garner a smile from anyone who spots them. Even the soundtrack is perfect, featuring When In Rome’s The Promise and an unexpected REO Speedwagon cover dubbed for Newton by JoJo (as in Leave (Get Out)!). 

The highly quotable and stylish script was written by Diablo Cody of Jennifer’s Body fame; Zelda Williams, daughter of the legend Robin Williams, directs in what is her first major film foray. Cole Sprouse is a surprising standout given his minimal dialogue.

Lisa Frankenstein is, in a word, FUN. It harkens back to those latter day cheerful horror comedies like My Boyfriend’s Back, prior to the overwhelming influx of spoofs that rely on low hanging fruit for their comedic backbone. Newton carries the film, playing off the silent but expressive Cole Sprouse with ease, and Liza Soberano in a supporting role exemplifies the chipper cheerleader trope to perfection.

This one is a must-see, from the clever animated sequences to the snappy dialogue, gorgeous aesthetic, and the revel in nostalgia for Gen-Xers and Millennials alike. Go see it! You won’t be sorry.

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